Fidelis Munyoro-Chief Court Reporter
A SHAMVA widow has won a legal battle for a temporary injunction thwarting a miner from constructing a school on the family’s farm, at least until a final judgment is made in the High Court.
Mrs Patricia Gurira (70) and her late husband bought M.E.D Farm in 1981 from a private individual before land reform came into effect almost two decades later, and it remained private property.
However, Mr Taurai Mukaki, a former family employee, fraudulently sought to peg gold mining claims on the Guriras farm resulting in his conviction for forgery and fraud of documents that purported to authorise him to register the present claim, which he and Fortune Mine Syndicate are operating.
Zimbabwean law gives miners priority over farmers, with necessary safeguards for buildings and compensation for damaged crops, since the mineral rights are owned by the State. Mrs Gururira was fully aware of the mining done by Mr Mukaki and his syndicate on the farm but did not bother herself as she agreed that a holder of mining certificate has greater rights than a holder of an offer letter or title deeds provided the miner observed the rules stipulated in the Mines and Minerals Act.
The fact that the syndicate was mining on her farm was not the reason why she approached the High Court, but rather more recent events when the mining syndicate indicated its intention to further change the land use from agricultural by building a primary school on the privately owned property.
It was on that basis that the injunction was sought and why Justice Owen Tagu ruled in favour of Mrs Gurira after finding that the matter deserved urgent intervention of the court to stop a clear violation of the law with impunity, and continued violation of property rights, being perpetrated against the widow.
Urgent injunctions are granted when irreversable damage to a right can result while other civil action, if any, is in progress. They are designed to preserve the present land use until all legal rights have been established.
The syndicate had started clearing about 15 hectares of land and conceded during the hearing that some temporary structures had been built by them and that the application had been overtaken by events and children had since been enrolled.
In this regard, Justice Tagu found that Mrs Gurira’s legal counsel established a strong case for irreparable harm against her by the syndicate.
“My concern is M.E.D Farm is a privately owned farm dealing in agricultural activities. The respondents may have mining permits to mine on M.E.D Farm, but it is unclear how they then sought change of land use belonging to private individuals.
“There is, therefore, a well-grounded apprehension of irreparable harm if the relief sought is not granted. The balance of convenience favours the granting of interim interdict.” Mrs Gurira’s effort to engage with the Bindura office of the Mines and Mining Development Ministry and the Lands office at Shamva failed only to discover shocking information that Mr Mukaki had on June 7 this year made an application to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development for change of land use.
Further, Mrs Gurira found that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education was not objecting to the establishment of the school at her farm.
Mr Cyprian Chabvepi represented Mrs Gurira while Mr Admire Masango of Muronda, Malinga, Masango acted for Mr Mukaki and Fortune Mine Syndicate.