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    Saturday, 8 July 2017

    Govt appeals to Supreme Court against sugarcane farmers



    MORRIS BISHI
    CHIREDZI BUREAU

    CHIREDZI – The Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement has appealed against a High Court ruling that allowed 213 new sugarcane farmers who were recently granted plots under a controversial scheme to stay on the plots.
    The farmers were allocated sugarcane plots in an estate owned by Tongaat Hullet and the allocations were later considered illegal after it emerged that there were bilateral agreements between Zimbabwe and South Africa that protected properties of companies from that country from compulsory acquisition.
    The Ministry then withdrew the offer letters and the farmers under the auspices of Lowveld Sugarcane Association appealed to the High Court and the Court ruled in their favour.
    The High Court said in its ruling that the Minister of Lands has no powers to withdraw an offer letter in-terms of the Agricultural Land Settlement Act (Chapter 20:01) thereby giving the farmers the reprieve to stay on the plots.
    The Deputy Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Berita Chikwama has however said that the ruling by the court was erroneous as the Minister has powers to withdraw offer letters since he is the one who administers land. Responding to written questions by Member of Parliament for Chiredzi West during a parliament session last Wednesday, she said the process is administrative and as a result the ministry has appealed to the Supreme Court.
    She said there is no going back since the move to withdraw the offer letters was necessitated by the Bilateral Agreement between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
    "The administrative court`s judgment in the case of Lowveld Sugarcane Association was to the effect that the minister has no powers to withdraw an offer letter in terms of the Agricultural Land Settlement Act (Chapter 20:01). However, that decision was in our view erroneous as there have been numerous High Court judgments' that state that the Minister of Lands can withdraw offer letters in terms of the offer letter itself. The process is administrative. As a result, an appeal has been noted in the Supreme Court against the judgment. The Minister of Lands is the one who administers the Agricultural Land Settlement Act as well as the gazetted Lands Act (Chapter 20:28) which provides for offer letters. The said farmers are not entitled to any alternative land as their offer letters were lawfully withdrawn.
    "Investor confidence will remain as the move to withdraw the offer letters was necessitated by the Bilateral Agreement between Zimbabwe and South Africa. Our investors will be re-assured by the Zimbabwean Government`s action of withdrawing the said offer letters," said Chikwama.
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