Man accused of land grab at Umvutcha granted bail

Ernest Buseti who is accused of illegally occupying state land at Umvutcha Farm was granted bail by the magistrates court in Bulawayo on Friday.

Buseti was arrested on charges of leading a group of 80 people to occupy Umvutcha Farm reportedly owned by Alister Michael Fletcher between December 21 and 27, 2023.


In granting bail, Bulawayo Magistrate Shepherd Munjanja said the grounds made by the state were insufficient  and that the court worked with the premise that one was innocent until found guilty.

“One has rights to liberty and I will grant bail at US$150 or ZWL equivalent,” said the magistrate.

The state was opposed to bail and produced the accused’s previous conviction for contempt of court, adding that Buseti may regroup and invade the farm again.

Buseti’s defence argued he had not gone back to that land until a Supreme Court ruling on November 2023, which determined the land in question was state land.

The defence added Buseti had also been invited to the Law and Order Section under the Criminal Investigations Department for three times and lastly was in possession of an offer letter

The magistrate said Buseti “must not interfere with witnesses, reside at his given address and must report once every week on Fridays to ZRP Saucerstown between 6am and 6pm until the matter is finalised.”

The case was remanded to January 26, 2023 for continuation.

Disputes over Umvutcha Farm date back several years after the land was erroneously declared agricultural land instead of municipal land while the property falls under municipal land and must be governed as per provisions of Statutory Instrument (SI) 212 of 1999.

However, Buseti’s lawyer, Bartholomew Mhandire, argued in court that the accused and the group he had been leading had offer letters and had been paying rates to Umguza Rural District Council (RDC) since 2008.

Mhandire also said Fletcher was not the owner of that land because in November 2023, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that the land had been gazetted and designated for allocation.

Buseti’s awyer added that his client had not been evicted by the Ministry of Lands but the third party (Fletcher) despite the land being gazetted and appropriated by the State for allocation.

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