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High Court interdicts illegal settlers at ARDA dairy farm

A housing cooperative that illegally settled itself on an Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) dairy farm in Chitungwiza and produced fake offer letters has been interdicted by the High Court from interfering with operations of the authority pending the issuance of a final order.

High Court of Zimbabwe
High Court of Zimbabwe

The interim interdict was issued by High Court judge Justice Paul Musithu on Tuesday, and bars the settlers calling themselves Takunda Freedom Fighters Housing Cooperative from disrupting ARDA in its development of Nyarungu Training Centre in Stoneridge.

“Pending the return date, the 1st to 16th respondents be and are hereby ordered to stop all interference with entry or exit as well as the construction of a boundary fence at Nyarungu Training Centre Stoneridge, Harare, otherwise known as a certain piece of land situate in the district of Salisbury being the Remainder of Subdivision A of Nyarungu of Subdivision A of Stoneridge measuring 40,4641 hectares held under deed of transfer number 2675/95,” reads the interim order.

ARDA produced two letters in court on Tuesday from the Ministries of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement and Local Government and Public Works, which both disowned members of the cooperative.

The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works said the settlers were fraudsters, and that they produced fake offer letters in a bid to stay on the land.

“The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works never allocated any land at Stoneridge Farm to Takunda Freedom Fighters Housing Cooperative,” said the ministry. “Attached offer letters are all fake and unknown to the ministry. The reference used and date stamp is unknown to the ministry.

“The offer letter purported to be from the Ministry is also fraudulent and unknown. The contents and structure of the offer letter is different from our usual ministry offer letters. There are strange clauses that permit Takunda Freedom Fighters Housing Cooperative to first sell the land and afterwards the offer letter comes into effect.”

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The Ministry said the structure of the offer letter produced by the housing cooperative members had all the ingredients of being fake as it did not mention anything about land payments and land value.

“No land is given for free by the ministry and furthermore, Takunda Freedom Fighters Housing Cooperative never paid for the land to the ministry were they genuinely offered as alleged,” it said.

“Had the offer letters emanated from the ministry we could have copies and records of them. All files for Nyarugu and Stoneridge have no such records ever filed.”

On its part, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement confirmed that the land was held under title deed 267/95 which belongs to ARDA.

“Anyone other than ARDA claiming the right to occupy the agricultural land including the respondents in your application has no such right and we are not aware of how they came to claim the land,” said the ministry. “As such, their occupation without lawful authority is illegal.”

ARDA approached the High Court after it recently secured an investment to upgrade operations at the farm, but discovered that members of the housing cooperative had allocated themselves residential stands inside the farm.

The authority wants the court to issue a final interdict stopping members of the group from encroachment on the farm and constructing any barricades on the main road leading to the farm.

It also wants the court to issue a declaratory order stating that ARDA is the lawful owner of the property in question, since it holds the title deeds.

ARDA is ramping up its operations around the country following the recent launch of its transformational strategic plan, and apart from investment it has secured, the authority is also receiving Government support to drive its mandate in line with Vision 2030. The Herald