By Tererai Karimakwenda
The government has reportedly agreed to facilitate the allocation of farms to five new judges of the High Court, who wrote to the Ministry of Lands in May, demanding that they be given commercial farms under the Land Resettlement Programme.
According to the Newsday newspaper, Justice George Chiweshe appealed to the Lands Ministry in a letter seen by the paper, on behalf of Justices Erica Ndewere, Esther Muremba, Owen Tagu, Nokuthula Moyo and Amy Tsanga.
In addition to farms, the new judges also asked for new judicial robes and “other professional regalia”, refusing to continue wearing second hand robes left by retired judges.
Justice Chiweshe’s letter was addressed to Judicial Service Commission (JSC) chairperson Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, to whom he appealed to facilitate allocation of the farms, “as an incentive for them”, Newsday said.
A response was received in June from Justice Rita Makarau, as acting JSC secretary, acknowledging receipt of the judges’ request and informing them that the Lands Ministry had asked for their personal details and “preferred provinces” so that they can expedite the request.
Sam Sipepa Nkomo, MDC-T shadow Minister for Agriculture, Lands and Water Development, said in any other country this would be problematic because the judges are not paying for the farms and they are given mostly to those who support ZANU PF. As MDC-T, he would not be eligible.
The other issue is that the farms are often stolen from the legitimate owner, who is paid no compensation, something that you think might be a problem for a judge, who is supposed to uphold the rule of law.
“Here they are not paying for the farms so the giver, he who pays the piper calls the tune. The giver actually will look for returns because I have given you something so you have to do something for me as well, or make judgements that are favourable to me. I think it’s simply unfortunate,” Sipepa Nkomo explained.
He added: “It appears to me that they waited until they were appointed judges in order to ask for farms. So they are using their positions to get farms and I think that compromises them and that’s unfortunate.”
Sipepa Nkomo said it is nothing new for judges in Zimbabwe to be allocated farms and these recent appointees are only following the system that exists.
“The only way to get a farm is to be ZANU PF aligned and I am sure they are already ZANU PF aligned. Anybody who is not ZANU PF will not get a farm. I am in the MDC and therefore will not be given farms,” Sipepa Nkomo said.
The government used violence and intimidation to remove white commercial farmers from their properties, without any compensation paid to the owners.
Under the so-called Land Resettlement Programme the farms were often allocated to ZANU PF chefs and military chiefs with no farming experience. This greatly reduced the country’s food production and left hundreds of thousands of former farm workers unemployed.
Some of the top judges that have benefited from the land reform programme include Justices Chinembiri Bhunu, Ben Hlatshwayo, Chidyausiku and David Mangota, among others. SW Radio Africa