By Jeffrey Muvundusi
White farmer David Connolly, who has been involved in a protracted legal battle with a top aide of President Robert Mugabe, faces eviction from his Centenary Farm in Figtree after a High Court judge yesterday ruled that his occupation of the disputed property was illegal.
Connolly, through his company, JC Connolly and Sons (Pvt) Ltd, has since 2014 been locked in a bitter land wrangle with the deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Ray Ndhlukula over the ownership of the farm.
The ruling by Harare High Court judge Justice Joseph Musakwa follows an application by Connolly who sought the confirmation of a provisional order which was granted in his favour two years ago where Ndhlukula was barred from evicting the white farmer from his Centenary Farm.
In a surprise turn of events, Justice Musakwa who took over the case after Justice Francis Bere recused himself from the matter said Connolly was in occupation of gazetted land, which was compulsorily acquired by the State in 2000.
“Although the applicant was granted spoliatory relief in the interim order, he is actually already in breach of section 3(1) of the Gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act which provides that no person may hold, use or occupy gazetted land without lawful authority,” said the judge.
Justice Musakwa discharged Connolly’s provisional order with costs.
He also took a dig at government officials among them the deputy minister of Agriculture Paddy Zhanda who he accused of legitimising Connolly’s occupation of the farm through their visits to his farm.
Connolly through his lawyers Webb Low and Barry legal practitioners argued that since the acquisition of the farm he has been in peaceful and undisturbed occupation of the property and productively utilising the land.
Ndhlukula, through his lawyer Gerald Mlotshwa of GN Mlotshwa and Company, said Connolly failed to establish a clear right to the land.
He further argued that he had an offer letter.
In March last year, Bulawayo High Court ordered Ndhlukula off the farm and sentenced him to a suspended 90-day jail term on condition that he complied with the order within 14 days.
Ndhlukula, however, did not vacate the farm in a development that forced Connolly to seek an order of the contempt against the top civil servant which was subsequently granted.
Ndhlukula in turn noted an appeal against the order of contempt and the matter is yet to be heard. Daily News