Confiscated properties: Ex-ZPRA combatants seek High Court intervention

Ex-ZPRA combatants have filed an application at the Harare High Court seeking its intervention in the return of Nijo Produce (Private) Limited which was controversially transferred to ZANU-PF in 2020 by the late Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister, Perrance Shiri.

In the early 1980s, the government confiscated businesses and properties from 23,950 ZPRA liberation war ex-combatants for alleged insurrection, by Proclamation 9 of 1982 published in Statutory Instrument 87A, in terms of paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section (3) of the Unlawful Organization Act Chapter 91 on 16 February 1982.

Efforts to have all the properties returned have not yielded any positive results despite promises by the government.

In their lengthy application dated 19 October 2022,  the three applicants, namely ZPRA Liberation War Ex Combatants, Frederick Charles Moses Mutanda (association’s coordinator), and Ben Ncube (ZPRA War Veterans Association chairman) want the property returned its owners.

Betterbrands Construction (Pvt) Ltd, Chaminuka Estates (Pvt) Ltd, Broad Haven Construction (Pvt) Ltd and Environmental Management Agency (EMA) have been cited as the first to fourth respondents, respectively. 

“Therefore, Nijo a former thriving enterprise, which has been destroyed, must be returned to its rightful owners, the 23,950 ZPRA liberation war ex-combatants, and not bestowed to the ruling party, one Scot Sakupwanya or one Kudakwashe Tagwirei,” argue ex-ZPRA combatants.

“For the first time, thirty-seven (37) years after government seized the businesses and properties from 23,950 ZPRA liberation war ex-combatants for alleged insurrection but has evaded engaging them, on 22 July 2019 President Mnangagwa met the 1st Applicant and agreed where possible to return the properties. However, on 26 June 2020, the late comrade Air Chief Marshal Shiri retired, Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, transferred the eight (8) properties that comprised Nijo to ZANU PF. The cause of this application, following CASE No HC5329/22 before this Honourable Court.”

The applicants noted that upon being updated on the “unprecedented transfer” of the eight (8) Nijo properties to the ruling party, they immediately engaged the Minister of lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement and asserted the 23,950 ZPRA Liberation War ex-Combatants’ ownership of Nijo.

“In early August 2022, the 23,950 ZPRA liberation war ex-combatants received an invitation from the local ruling party to reoccupy and resume farming at Nijo ahead of the 2023 elections, oblivious to Case No HC5329/22,” argued the applicants.

“The Applicants and the 3rd Respondent, a group associated with Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom comrade Colonel Katsande retired, also a liberation war veteran, reached an out-of-court agreement on the matter before this Honourable Court.”

They noted that the Agriculture Rural Development Authority (ARDA) had not responded to the request to hand over Nijo to the 23,950 ZPRA liberation war ex-combatants.

“On 14 September 2022, Applicants were alerted that one Kudakwashe Tagwirei was at Nijo,” they said.

“2nd applicant found the said Tagwirei’s team in 4 Toyota Land cruiser SUVs at Nijo. Efforts to engage the said Kudakwashe Tagwirei, who applicants believe offered the ruling party US$75 million for 2023 elections in return for Nijo have been ignored.”

Ex-ZPRA combatants lamented that Nijo Produce (Private) Limited was transferred to Chaminuka Estate (Private) Limited without any compensation to the 23,950 ZPRA liberation war ex-combatants, who either joined the security sector or were disarmed, demobilised, and did not take part in any armed confrontation.

“The amount for compensation for Nijo is almost two billion United States dollars (US$2,000,000,000.00) given the potential development of an exclusive gated private residential estate,” they argued.

“Given the unilateral transfer of Nijo to ZANU PF by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water & Rural Resettlement, it would appear Government believe the 23,950 ZPRA liberation war ex-combatants have no claim to compensation on or return of businesses and properties seized in February 1982. Rather, Government appears to believe that returning the properties to the 23,950 ZPRA liberation war ex-combatants is discretionary.”

In determining the constitutional rights of the ex-combatants, applicants said the High Court ought to recognise that, Government and white farmers agreed to financial compensation of three and half billion United States dollars (US$3.5 billion) on properties seized during the Fast Track Resettlement Program 20 (twenty) years ago.

“Yet, for 40 years the 23,950 ZPRA liberation war ex-combatants are still waiting for their properties,” they bemoaned.

“Therefore, financial compensation for the seized and redeveloped properties of twenty billion United States dollars (US$20 billion) is fair and adequate. The applicants, therefore, seek an interdict on the redevelopment of Nijo by anyone acting on ZANU PF’s or 1st and 2nd Respondents’ authority, including but not limited to one Scot Sakupwanya and one Kudakwashe Tagwirei.”

The applicants further argued: “The Government cannot connive to commit heinous crimes in Zimbabwe, in a wicked conspiracy with the 2nd Respondent and expect Courts to condone that descent into the abyss. No citizen or resident of Zimbabwe will ever be safe if this abuse of state power goes unchecked. Posterity will look at this Honourable Court and judge it harshly for allowing these matters to become commonplace.”

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