(Last Updated on January 22, 2013 by Editor)
ZIMBABWE – The High Court yesterday ruled that Seke MP Phineas Chihota bungled in chairing a lands committee that dispossessed a Harare woman of her farm and allocated the same land to himself.
Chihota, who was not the Governor of Mashonaland East, chaired the provincial lands committee meeting in 2005 and consolidated Ms Sigudu’s farm on the basis that she had failed to comply with the conditions of the offer letter.
Ms Sigudu was allocated subdivision 2 of Denby Farm in Seke in 2002 while Chihota was allocated Subdivision 9 of the same farm. Justice Bharat Patel yesterday ordered Chihota off Ms Sigudu’s farm saying the woman’s offer letter was still valid and that she had not breached any of the conditions of her offer letter.
The judge held that the consolidation of the farm was tainted and illegal. “On the undisputed facts before me, the only inference that can reasonably be drawn is that the second respondent (Chihota) did use his position to influence the consolidation process and the consequent allocation of the consolidated land to himself.
“There is no explanation as to why he chaired the meeting in question. Even if such explanation were to be availed, there is no doubt whatsoever that he simply should have not chaired that particular meeting of the committee.
“The basic tenet of our law is that no one should be an arbiter in his own cause. “This is so for the obvious reason that the proceedings of a public body or committee should be free from the possibility of bias and the attendant risk of its incumbents serving their own personal interests,” ruled Justice Patel.
The court added that the decision by the lands committee in 2005 was vitiated by a fundamental irregularity.
“It was tainted and must therefore be declared a nullity,” he said. Ms Sigudu’s offer letter was never properly withdrawn and the whole process of consolidation and re-allocation to Chihota was flawed. Ms Sigudu was allocated the disputed land in 2002 under the land reform programme through an offer letter dated June 2 2002.
She immediately occupied the land, moulded bricks for construction and purchased farm equipment in anticipation to commence farming activities. In 2005 the provincial lands committee held a meeting chaired by Chihota.
The meeting took a decision to consolidate Ms Sigudu’s farm (Sub-division 2) with subdivision 9 that had been allocated to Chihota.
The consolidated farm was then re-allocated to Chihota and the committee resolved that Ms Sigudu should vacate the land.