TIME Bank has regained over 600 hectares of land, held through sister company Watermount Estates; which had been lost to farmers who were irregularly allocated the land under the land reform programme, with backing from an influential ex-Cabinet minister. The illegal occupants also took advantage of Time Bank’s inactivity after it was unprocedurally shutdown by the Reserve Bank in 2004.
The bank will reopen within 6 months after its licence was recently reinstated following a lengthy legal battle, which it won. Sources said the successful eviction of the occupants from Watermount Estates’ Graig Crag Farm represents victory for President Mnangagwa’s calls for respect of the rule of law and property rights.
Official documents show that Watermount Estates, an affiliate company of Time Bank, are the rightful owners of the land, remainder of Craig Crag Estate (600 972ha) and lot1 of East Anglia of Craig Crag Estate (136 998ha) through Deed of Transfer 8745 /98.
The land was bonded to Time Bank and reserved for residential property development, but the illegal occupants moved on to the land claiming the farm was rightfully allocated to them during then Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Didymus Mutasa’s reign. Documents show that the illegal allocation of the land for resettlement was cancelled by administrative court in September 2005 through a declaration order issued against case LA5944 /05.
While the illegal occupants, led by Ephraim Nhamo, lost a series of court battles in attempts to keep possession of the land, former Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora also withdrew offer letters the occupants cited for claiming ownership.
“Following the notice to withdraw your offer letter and representations, which you made to that effect, please be advised that the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement is withdrawing the offer of land made to you in respect of subdivision 4 and 5 measuring 152 hectares of Craig Crag Estate,” minister Mombeshora said in one of withdrawals of offers for the farm in question.
The then lands and rural resettlement minister issued a total of four such land offer withdrawal orders in respect of four pieces of Graig Crag Estate in Goromonzi District in Mashonaland East Province. All the pieces of land were registered under Watermount Estate. This was also followed by a High Court order issued last year in relation to an earlier court judgment relating to case number HC 2100 /16.
“You are required and directed to eject the said Ephraim Nhamo and the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement and all persons claiming through them, their goods and possessions from and out of all occupation and possession whatsoever of the said ground and or premises, and to leave same, to the end of Watermount Estates.”
Further, the illegal occupants had also serially resisted directives by the Sheriff to vacate the land while misrepresenting that their occupation also had the blessings of former President Robert Mugabe.
At some point, during the chronic land ownership wrangle Lands and Rural Resettlement secretary Grace Tsvakwi said her ministry had resolved to withdraw offer letters to the illegal occupants of Craig Crag Estate to avoid unnecessary costs to Government.
The land had been irregularly allocated to the four farmers as A2 farms under phase 2 of Government’s land resettlement programme. According to Watermount director Kumbirai Matimba the farm was initially gazetted in 2001 for acquisition by Government, but this was withdrawn in 2002 after the anomaly was noted.
Then Mashonaland East Governor David Karimanzira, and then lands Minister Joseph Made also verified and confirmed the land was legally and indigenously owned by blacks through Watermount Estates.
But following several previous failed attempts, since 2006, to evict the illegal occupants, Watermount eventually succeeded last month to repossess the land with the help of the Sheriff of Zimbabwe, escorted by police officers from Juru Police Station (as instructed by the Officer Commanding Mashonaland East Province).
Earlier attempts for eviction and enforcement of orders to vacate the land through the Sheriff had been violently rebutted by the illegal occupants who enjoyed questionable protection of then influential Cabinet minister, Mutasa who held the lands portfolio in 2002.
Only last month police escort was approved by Acting Police Commissioner Godwin Matanga, enabling the Sheriff to evict Nhamo. Cephas Hodzi, Alvin Musengezi and Rushmore Mukwamba.
“Be advised that I have directed the Officer Commanding Police Mashonaland East Province to avail police officers who will escort the Sheriff to execute Court order HC2100 on behalf of your client,” Acting Commissioner General of Police Godwin Matanga.
Prior to this several police cases had been reported over the illegal occupants refusal to vacate the land amid concerns the farmers posed risks to life and all Watermount Estate property on the land.-Herald