May 22, 2024

Chombo appeals High Court farm ruling

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Fidelis Munyoro
FORMER Cabinet Minister Ignatius Chombo has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court challenging a High Court decision rejecting his petition to stop the Government from reducing the size of his 3 099ha farm to the standard size farm for his ecological zone.
In a judgment handed down last week, the High Court Commercial Division declined to grant Chombo’s application challenging the downsizing of his 3 099ha farm to the maximum standard size for his ecological zone and reallocating the remainder to several others.
Justice Jacob Manzunzu ruled that Chombo’s application was not a proper case for the court to exercise its discretion in favour of granting the declaratory orders he sought, and threw out the application with costs of suit.
Through his lawyer, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, Chombo is now seeking the Supreme Court’s intervention to overturn the decision.
In the notice of appeal filed at the Supreme Court yesterday, Prof Madhuku said his client was challenging the entire judgment of the High Court.
He argued that the High Court grossly misdirected itself and erred in law by going outside the scope of the High Court Act, by abandoning the issue of the declaratory order sought and dealing with Marian Chombo’s position.
Prof Madhuku argued against the High Court finding, that the courts could override the lease agreement with the Government.
In March 2018, Chombo had entered into a tripartite agreement with an investor called Pepary Investments (Private) Limited (Pepary) and the Government of Zimbabwe represented by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development.
The judge said the parties knew at the time of signing the agreement that the Government, through the Minister, had unfettered rights to repossess the leasehold or parts of the leasehold in terms of clause 20 of the lease agreement.
The argument was raised about the rights flowing from the divorce matter between Ignatius and Marian Chombo, but Justice Manzunzu said the court would not transgress into that area as if it were sitting as a family court to deal with ancillary issues to the divorce, neither was the court sitting as a review court.
It was also argued that by virtue of the tripartite agreement and the Land Commission Act, the Government waived any right to cancel the 99-year lease agreement in favour of Chombo or at least not before expiration of 20 years from March 14 2018 in terms of two clauses of the tripartite agreement.
But Justice Manzunzu said his reading of the tripartite agreement did not support the stance taken by Chombo.
It was Chombos’ contention that the Minister had no powers to cancel the 99-year-lease in terms of the Land Commission Act.
Chombo was allocated the farm in 2001, and subsequently had a 99-year lease agreement approved in 2006.

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