‘Cellphone’ farmers to lose offer letters

Maize FarmDaniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
The High Court says beneficiaries of the land reform programme who are underutilising their land should have their offer letters withdrawn to pave way for more deserving farmers.
Justice Nicholas Mathonsi made the remarks yesterday while confirming the withdrawal of an offer letter from Mutare businessman Mr Fungai Chaeruka, and the subsequent reallocation of the same land to the former owner Ms Heather Guild.

Mr Chaeruka lost the land after it came to the authorities’ attention that he was underutilising 498 hectares of Lot 5, Mazonwe Farm in Mutare.

The court heard that Mr Chaeruka was practising horticulture on less than one hectare, leaving more than 497ha idle.
The withdrawal was effected following a directive by the late Vice President Joseph Msika, who was at the time the chairperson of the National Lands Committee.

In a seven-page judgment delivered yesterday in the motion court, Justice Mathonsi said underutilisation of land was a breach of the conditions under which allocations were made under the land reform programme.

“The Government policy on land reform is not recreational, neither is it designed to accord beneficiaries some pastime. It is meant to benefit those willing and able to utilise land. One cannot be allowed to hold on to large tracts of land they are not using simply to baby-sit an inflated ego.

“If a beneficiary is not using the land, that is a breach of the conditions upon which that land is offered. It should therefore be withdrawn and given to more deserving candidates. For the applicant to utilise less than a hectare while leaving the remaining 497 hectares fallow, was scandalous.

“It entitled first respondent (Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement) to withdraw the offer letter,” ruled Justice Mathonsi.
Advocate Thabani Mpofu acted for Ms Guild while Adv David Ochieng represented Mr Chaeruka.

Justice Mathonsi agreed with Adv Mpofu on the point that the minister is empowered to withdraw an offer whenever there is a breach of contract.

“I agree with Mr Mpofu for the second defendant that if the applicant accepted the offer letter, he accepted it on the basis of Clause 7, which gives the minister unfettered power to cancel or withdraw the land as a result of a breach or if he deems it necessary. The applicant has not disputed that he was under-utilising the land.

“In fact he boldly stated in paragraph 3 of his answering affidavit that: ‘The scale of one’s farming operations viz the size of land does not provide a basis for the     unlawful withdrawal of an offer letter’.”

Justice Mathonsi blasted Mr Chaeruka for seeking political protection in a legal dispute, saying the courts were simply there to dispense justice.

“Mr Mpofu urged me to award costs on a punitive scale in light of of the applicant’s disdain of the provisions of the law having elected to pursue a political solution taking advantage of the chairman of Zanu-PF’s political clout on legal issues.

“In addition, right up to the time this matter was argued, the applicant remained rooted at the farm even as he had no lawful authority to do so.

“In so doing he dirtied his hands. His conduct deserves the court’s censure,” he said.
The judge said it was now time for the nation to know that the courts are there to dispense justice in a country that prides itself with its strict adherence to the rule of law.

“To set aside the due process of law in favour of something extra-legal, and in the process bring the administration of justice to disrepute will be penalised with punitive costs.

“In the result, the application is hereby dismissed with costs on a legal practitioner and client scale,” ruled the judge.

Pin It
  • Zim Analysit

    Funny how the government takes farms away and gives them to people with no knowledge and later take them away….

    Simple teach them how to farm give them a smaller portion of land then a bigger as they develop…

    • Muzambiringa

      Your heart’s in the right place. Your logic however is found wanting. You seem to imply there would be (contiguous) land held by .gov.zw (fallow) awaiting our pHantom pHarmer to stop pHarting about?

    • Mbada Murenje

      Speaking from the terraces yes

  • Hlahla Hamburamatope

    Agriculture has been a mainstay of our economy as Zimbabwe. In-fact during the liberation war, we were under specific instructions not to attack or to disturb production at Mazonwa. It is shocking that some as.. thought he is a farmer and admire a farmhourse and forgot that Mazonwa was once upon a time a true ‘goda’ of Manicaland. Infact this High court verdict is a true prognosis of one of the ills, similar to cashbert saga’ that bedevils our land revolution. The production model I have for the success of this son of soil exercise is to give those who claim to be farmers a five year grace but monitored farming period in which case their offer letter is revoked or rewarded with title deeds. I could have expounded on the operationalization of the model if we could had lines of communications with respective ministries or is it monistor..ies #standoff minister#

  • magonde

    There are many government officials and business people with multiple ownership of farms who are under-utilising the land and some haven’t even visited some of their farms. The law must justly deal with their ‘inflated ego’ as well.

    • Muzambiringa

      In good time my dear Watson. What on ivhu are magonde n-e-way?

  • Mashoko

    This should make the gvt form a Land Auhtority whose mandate is to monitor and audit land use. It should have technical workforce. High Courts sould not be used for such administrative functions

    • Muzambiringa

      Agreed. However in this case, it’s a case of #precedent?

    • makwavararama

      good idea

  • Masvukupete

    This is a good thing, and its not a white thing. Its a very black thing. If you are useless be removed and be replaced by able people. Same goes for Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, Joseph Made, Obert Mpofu, Emmerson Munangagwa, Joice Mujuru, George Charamba, Cahsbelt Dube, Happison Muchechetere, Dr Tendai Mahachi, Dzikamai Mavhaire (still to be properly tested but the outlook doesn’t look good), Ignatius Chombo (why he still has a job baffles the mind, besides the allegations of corruption there is not even 1 town council or rural council that we can use a case for his success MDC and Zanu led), the list is endless. All the people in positions of authority seem not to understand what their deliverables are, sanctions or no sanctions, rigging elections or not, Nikuv or not, drought or not.

  • Chiduku

    Our economy is agro based 60% of the raw material required by our industry comes from agriculture?Which means when we talk land,we talking about the mainstay of our economy.Would it not make sense to makesure that the people that have the skills are given first priority,It’s funny how many graduats of our Agric colleges where not awarded land.My take is to do this properly,let’s find people that are competent that have been trained in this business that are keen on farming.Some may not necessary have been trained at these colleges but have had the skills and are competent enough to run a farm and as long as they can prove that,then we rope them in and get going with the business of the day.
    The judge is right,there is no time to deal with egos,however,is this the only case in hand?If we are serious about the succes of zimasset then let’s do the land audit and reallocate the none utilized land to the skilled and then give them the necessary support to win.

  • Progressive Zimbabwean

    In 1999 when the President was under attack for implementing the land reform programme I did write that perhaps the President was right. I also came under attack for supporting what “enlightened” people were calling a chaotic programme. I however also felt that the programme needed support and both technical and financial. Apparently the system was neither ready nor enlightened enough to appreciate the amount of support required. Coming to this judgment. I however feel for both parties as reposession of land was a political act which was to have legal regularisation as it progressed. Mr. Chaeruka was not capacited and it may just be premature to say he did little on the land. On the other hand we need the land to be productive and it has to be the sons and daughters of this land who must work the land. This matter needs to be revisited and a political solution is required as well in addition to whatever legal solutions there may be to either parties. I know tempers are boiling and emotions are high but let us be a little sober as we look at this matter and the effect of Justice Mathonsi’s ruling on the land reform programme.

  • Mimi

    Excellent decision. Most beneficiaries of the land reform programme are underutilizing the land that were allocated to them and this is a fact. Apart from the fact that some are multiple farm owners, most have been “keeping” just as a way to pose to friends and family that they are farm owners. This is what Zimbabweans have been up against and complaining. If only the government could institute some secret whistle blowing mechanism, it will be shocked to discover that not all land that was allocated is being utilized. This is in sharp contrast to what government is trying to achieve. Yes, we have had drought but most farms are not being utilized because their owners are either working in offices in towns and have no intention whatsoever to ever put to use the land that was given to them. The fact that one is a white Zimbabwean should not make a difference. Zimbabwe needs farmers at heart willing to give their all to put land allocated to maximum use, thereby creating jobs and food security to the nation.

  • theo

    The issue is very simple people were given the land to produce goods for themselves and the country, yes?. I don’t believe the white farmers were better that the blacks, the difference is that the white farmer took farming as his business, he woke up thinking farming and went to be thinking farming that is all. many people got give land and they see it as Novelty how can an individual sit on such huge peace of land and not have a strategy of how to utilize this land for the good if him and his family and the nation. lets take away the land from people who are not interested to work on it and lets find people who are willing to work , breath and live farming what ever colour or race they are. Zimbabwe needs to become the bread basket of Africa again, this can only happen if people get farms who are willing to become farmers and you know if you as the owner cant be a farmer go and employ somebody , pay him well and let him do it for you.

  • Naison Ncube

    I hope the other farmers are watching and listening. It is time our land was the economy. I suggest we rope in our CIO to monitor users of prime land. We take the land if there are not using it. Who in Zimbabwe is not embarrassed when told that we are importing maize from Zambia or Malawi, produced by the same farmers we kicked out. Personally I think a land tax based on what the land used to produce prior to 2000 may do the trick. Those not utilising may just give up
    Let this also be extended to those that have taken over game farms ,lodges and MINES yes MINES!

  • chris zinhara

    Land reform is finally reversible! this case will set a serious setback on the government empowerment policy. Productivity on any piece of land is a function of various factors of which each one of them has to be considered before withdrawing offer letters on the basis of low or no productivity. one of the factors is the quoted clause itself in the offer letter that gives the minister the right to withdraw anytime! the latter blocks any opportunities of partnerships or investment on the farm. secondly, the fact that the farms have no monetary value means one cannot access finance thus equating it to the 1913 land apportionment act that sought to disenfranchise black people of means of production!

  • Cde Jairos Tapfuma

    government should not be emotional about some of these things. Why people do cellphone farming is because their source of income is somewhere, and not at the bank as was the case with white farmers. on settling in Zimbabwe, Rhodes gave his Rhodies farms and gold claims to finance the farming activities. later on, they formed banks, which were meant to do finance admin. these banks today have categorically stated that they will not recognise Zanu-pf’s offer letters when giving out loans. Now, it becomes a crime for a black farmer to get land when he has no cash. But we all know almost all black farmers do not have cash, except those employed by parastatals and are paying themselves salaries out of this world, which even President Mugabe has said he is going to fight right up to the end. The reason why i personally started as a cellphone farmer was because i was employed elsewhere so that i could finance the farming project. even the loan i got from the bank was given out as a personal loan against my salary and NOT against my farming project proposal. I had to cheat my way. So cellphone farming is a foundation of more to come, because in my case, i have now left employment to concentrate on the farm, ONLY after the former financed my farming foundation. Meanwhile, how do you expect a poor farmer, even at A1 level to afford a bag of fertiliser for $40? and you need 10 of these to plant, and another 10 for top dressing per hectare. Maakuda kutanga hondo nazvo izvi. We did not fight the liberation struggle so that those with access to cash would live large.

    • zvauya

      well said Cde ,vanhu havana mari ,no finance no production ,what concrete move have government done to make sure that all resettled farmer are financed.govt must consider that

    • jones

      what is the nation meant to do in the mean time? wait for people to get money and work the land. what if it never happens? its close to 15 years since people we given land!

  • Takawira

    Now that the EU’s financial offer to cover a comprehensive land audit has been accepted by Government and no further excuse remains not to execute the work required, when can we expect full public disclosure of results, and action taken against those Ministers and senior Politburo members disgustingly holding on to multiple farms?

  • Mfanekhaya

    Good move Justice Mathonsi and thanks for the precedent. We need to be productive, period. But why return the farm to the white lady? We know there is a long and winding waiting list of black people yet to benefit from the Land Reform Programme. Anxious black people who voted for ZANU PF in their hundreds of thousands. Is this not a step back in our revolutionary trajectory?

    • Pearls Jam

      Because the white lady owned the land. People are starving. Skin colour shouldn’t matter if food is being produced and everyone is being treated fairly.

  • norman chikoto

    Justice Manthonsi is a true hero. He has the needs of Zimbabwean people at heart. Wake up everyone who was awarded farms which they are not properly utilising. You need to feed the nation. We cannot continue buy food from other countries yet we have the land. This is a warning to everyone who simply rushed to the farms for their own egotistically needs that if they fail to utilise it, then they will loose it. The kid gloves have been taken away. It is time to show that one can sustain the need of the country. Zimbabweans cannot fail to enjoy benefits of their own birth country due to mismanagement of our resources. We need more judges like Mr Manthosi.

  • Ready

    ini ndirikuda land ready and willing. We were sent from pillar to post during time yaipiwa ruzhinji nokuti hapana anotizivawo. Lets be fair some farms are too big . Divide them and get more production.


    Some people have the dog syndrome of chasing cars and then wonder what to do when they catch one……. or when the car stops.
    If you do not know how to fly an aeroplane leave it to those who can fly it.