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Labour Court judge Mrs Betty Chidziva last week won a case in which 22 families who unlawful occupied her farm in Beatrice were asked to vacate.

Japhet Marumbe and 21 others denied contravening Section 3 of the Land Act (Chapter 20:20) on “occupation of gazetted land without lawful authority”.

The 22 families were, however, found guilty after a full trial when they appeared before Chitungwiza magistrate Ms Georgina Ndava.

Ms Ndava sentenced them to a wholly suspended six-month jail term and ordered them to vacate the farm by June 23, or face eviction by a messenger of court.

In their defence, the 22 proffered varying arguments, but all claimed to be lawful occupiers of Lang Glen (Angle Ranch) Farm. The stranded families pleaded with the court to give them time ranging from four months to seven months.

Prosecutor Mr Edmond Ndambakuwa disputed their plea since the evidence adduced in court form the officials who testified said the families refused to vacate the area two years ago.

“The accused have been unlawfully occupying the complainant’s farm since 2012. Staying at the farm will disrupt complainant’s farming activities and they might end up destroying infrastructure considering the nature of the offence,” said Mr Ndambakuwa.

In their defence, they had told the court that they were lawful occupiers of the farm after they were left there by their former white paymaster, only identified as Payne.

Their arguments were, however, quashed when Mashonaland East lands 0fficer Mr Wilfred Motsi buttressed the State’s case that the 22 were unlawful occupiers.

Mr Motsi told the court that Mrs Chidziva was the lawful owner of the farm and substantiated his claims citing that the judge was issued with a lease agreement in 2012.

Circumstances were that Ms Chidziva (50) of Cranborne, Harare, was allocated the farm and issued with an offer letter on February 8, 2012.

When Ms Chidziva went to the farm, she was surprised to find families building permanent structures, including tobacco barns.

Since February 2012 to date, the 22 allocated themselves Subdivision 7 of the farm and invited settlers from Zanka Farm — which is 10km away — to join them.

Source : The Herald

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