MASVINGO –The Mirror has filed a case at Masvingo High Court to compel the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Douglas Mombeshora to release the names of 213 new farmers that he allocated sugarcane plots in Chiredzi.
The Mirror says in its papers served on the Minister in October 2016 that it sought the list from all relevant Government departments including the Minister himself without success. Ministry officials have refused to release the list and claimed that the names were a State secret.
The Mirror which is represented by Martin Mureri of Matutu and Mureri Legal Practitioners argues that the newspaper is registered and it is not only in the public interest for it to publish the list but it is within the paper's constitutional right to do so.
The Mirror further said in the application that there are allegations that most of the beneficiaries of this latest plot allocation are top Government officials, relatives and their children some of whom are still in school. The plots were allocated from 4 000 hectares of land that Government withdrew from Hippo Valley and Triangle Estates run by Tongaat Hulett. Some 2 000 Tongaat workers will lose their jobs once the land is taken away.
"The case was filed at Masvingo High Court in Masvingo on March 20 under case number HC 84/17 and the Minister was served with the papers and we are now waiting for the Court to provide a date for the hearing," said Mureri.
Mirror editor Nkulumani Mlambo also added that there is nothing confidential about the list since all other lists of land beneficiaries under the land redistribution programmes were published by Government in the Press.
A Mr V. Nyamayaro received the court papers on behalf of Minister Mombeshora at Makombe Building.
"In October 2016 The Mirror through its lawyer demanded to be furnished with names of sugarcane plot beneficiaries in the Low Veld whom The Mirror believes were corruptly allocated land as some beneficiaries are school going kids as well as relatives of those close to the centre of power.
"It is in the interest of the public to know who actually benefited from this land allocation. There is nothing confidential about the names. It is clear that from the beginning of the land reform the names of the beneficiaries were published and as a newspaper one of whose objectives is to inform the public they are requesting that your good office release those names to them in order for them to publish them for the benefit of the public," reads part of the letter written to the Minister which was not responded to. This prompted the lawyers to take the matter to the High Court.
The lawyers also cited Section 62 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which gives everyone the right of access to any information held by any person, including the State in so far as the information is required in the interest of public accountability.