HARARE – The on-going harassment of commercial farmer David Connolly, owner of Centenary Farm in Figtree, is impacting severely on his displaced workers and on agricultural production.
Since June last year, Connolly has been embroiled in a fierce legal battle with the deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Ray Ndhlukula, who has been trying to take over his Centenary Farm.
This is despite the fact that Ndhlukula has two other farms in Matabeleland South at Wilfred Hope Farm in Marula and Vlakfontein known as Subdivision 2 of Marula Block.
Ndhlukula claims to have sold the properties.
In August last year, Ndhlukula allegedly sent his thugs to evict Connolly’s workers and their families from the farm, rendering them destitute, despite a High Court order blocking their evictions.
Connolly was then barred from returning to his farm and irrigating or harvesting the
300 000 onions he still had in the ground. Ironically, Ndhlukula was in charge of the government’s ZimAsset statement of intent for food and food security, announced in December 2013.
In March this year, a Bulawayo High Court judge sentenced Ndhlukula to 90 days in prison for defying a court order barring him from evicting Connolly and his workers. The sentence was suspended on condition that Ndhlukula complied fully with the order within 14 days.
Despite a contempt of court case against Ndhlukula filed at the High Court, Connolly was allegedly forced off his farm in September 2014.
In a new twist of the ownership wrangle, Connolly was himself arrested by police and charged with illegally occupying the farm, despite the fact that the contempt ruling has been handed down against Ndhlukula.
Connolly appeared in the Gwanda Magistrates’ Court on June 30, 2015 as instructed, only to be told that the provincial prosecutor had referred the matter to the prosecutor general in Harare.
The case was remanded to July 9.
When Connolly appeared in the magistrates’ court on that date, the senior magistrate eventually recused himself with the excuse that he knew the Connollys, even though Connolly says he has never met him.
A junior magistrate was assigned to the case. The prosecutor failed to arrive and so another prosecutor had also to be found.
After further delays, Connolly’s lawyer proceeded to deliver his arguments and the two court orders from the High Court were filed, together with Ndhlukula’s appeal to the Supreme Court.
Connolly’s lawyer then applied for a stay until such time as the contempt matter had been dealt with in the Supreme Court.
Although the case had already been remanded on three previous occasions, the junior magistrate said the application for the stay was beyond the jurisdiction of the magistrates’ court.
Connolly says no production of any sort is currently taking place, despite the fact that there is more than enough water in the dam.
“It seems that the desired outcome of the fast track land nationalisation programme — which is apparently the cessation of all production and the destruction of formal employment on commercial farms across the country — has been achieved at Centenary farm,” Conolly said. Daily News