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    Tuesday, 30 January 2018

    High Court rules in favour of The Mirror

    • Gives Minister 15 days to release list of farmers allocated sugarcane plots under Mahofa


    MASVINGO – The High Court in Masvingo has granted The Mirror a court order to receive and inspect the names of 213 farmers who were secretly allocated sugarcane plots in Chiredzi under the late Shuvai Ben Mahofa provincial administration.
    Justice Joseph Mafusire ordered the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Dr Douglas Mombeshora to submit the list of names to The Mirror within 15 days of receipt of the order.
    The Mirror's application was made in October 2016 following reports that plots totalling 4 000 hectares and grabbed from Tongaat Hullet were corruptly parcelled out to top Government and Zanu PF officials, their relatives and children.
    The allocation of the plots is also seen as part of Zanu PF's patronage's system where favours are given to certain people to buy their support. The beneficiaries were allocated the pieces of land together with sugarcane crop that was almost ready for harvest.
    Justice Mafusire ordered Dr Mombeshora to pay the full cost of the suit.
    The Mirror approached Masvingo Provincial Lands Officer Tendai Mumera for the names but she referred the matter to Dr Mombeshora who in turn referred the matter to the permanent secretary Grace Tsitsi Mutandiro.
    Mutandiro flatly refused to release the names even after a request from Mirror lawyer, Martin Mureri of Matutu and Mureri Legal Practitioners.
    She said that the names were confidential and a State security issue.
    The Ministry was represented by Mr F Chingwere at the court case.
    The Mirror also approached the Minister of State for Masvingo; Mahofa who did not only defend the grabbing of the land as part of the indigenisation programme but refused to disclose the names of the beneficiaries.
    Justice Mafusire's order which was made on Thursday last week instructed Dr Mombeshora to furnish The Mirror with full details of the beneficiaries.
    "The respondent shall furnish the applicant with the full names, national identity numbers, dates of birth, plot numbers and the number of hectares allocated to each of the 213 beneficiaries of the Hippo Valley and Triangle Sugar Cane Plots within 15 days of the date of the service of this order on the respondent.
    "The respondent shall pay the cost of the suit," said Justice Mafusire.
    Mirror Editor, Nkulumani Mlambo described the High Court decision to enforce transparency
    in the land redistribution programme as landmark with positive impact in the fight against corruption.
    "There is a sad scenario where public resources including land are being parcelled out for narrow and even personal interest. It is most tragic for individuals to use or donate land for patronage.
    "As a media organisation we are happy that we have been granted our right by the High Court to inform the public on this very important issue of the Tongaat plots," said Mlambo.
    Efforts to get a comment from Mutandiro were not successful as she was said to be out of office on Ministry business.
    Although the offer letters to the beneficiaries have since been withdrawn by Dr Mombeshora
    following a complaint by the South African Government that Tongaat investments are protected under Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement between the two countries, the farmers have contested the
    decision at the High Court and the matter is still pending.
    Mureri argued in his application that it was in the interest of the public to know who has benefitted
    from the 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 the names to them in order for them to publish them for the benefit for the public," said Mureri in his letter to the Minister.
    Chingwere argued that the names of the beneficiaries were privileged information and The Mirror was a third party therefore not entitled to have them.
    Justice Mafusire told the court that The Mirror has a right to the information in order to expose the corrupt way in which the beneficiaries were chosen.
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