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Malaysian investors lose banana farm case

ATTEMPTS by Malaysian investors to regain control of a banana plantation in Manicaland occupied by a retired army general and diplomat this week suffered a setback following a High Court ruling against them.

The ruling comes amid reports that Vice-President John Nkomo indicated he could not intervene in the ownership dispute until it is finalised at the courts.
Two weeks ago Nkomo promised to help the Malaysians regain the occupied property but officials from his office this week said his hands were tied because of the protracted court proceedings.
“The Vice-President has said that his hands are tied because the dispute is still to be finalised at the courts,” said a senior official from his office. “He said doing so could undermine the authority of the courts.”
In the latest court battle this week High Court judge Justice Yunus Omerjee dismissed a chamber application filed by Matanuska (Pvt) Ltd seeking to bar Edzai Chimonyo from filing an appeal against a ruling ordering him to vacate the property.
The ruling was handed down in January by Justice Tedious Karwi.
Chimonyo is Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania.
Matanuska argued Chimonyo failed to file an application for rescission of the judgment within the stipulated days and therefore the Karwi judgment should come into effect.
Justice Karwi ordered Chimonyo to vacate Fangundu Farm saying his occupation of the property was illegal. But Chimonyo appealed on the grounds that he had not been served with papers to appear in court.
Another High Court judge, Justice Joseph Musakwa then set aside Justice Karwi’s ruling and ordered Chimonyo to file an application for the rescission of Justice Karwi’s judgment within seven days of granting this order.
Matanuska then rushed back to court arguing the seven days had elapsed with Chimonyo failing to abide by the order.
However, Justice Omerjee, who presided over the chamber application, this week ruled against Matanuska on the grounds that Chimonyo had filed the application for the rescission of the judgment handed down in January.
“The relief sought by the present applicants (Matanuska) is misplaced, given the presence of an application for rescission, which is pending,” said Justice Omerjee, in his judgment made available to the Independent yesterday.
Justice Omerjee said Matanuska can appeal against his ruling within seven days and that all parties involved should file heads of arguments within the time limits as stipulated within the High Court Rules and obtain a date of set-down for the hearing of the application for the rescission on the opposed roll.
The ruling means Chimonyo can remain at Fangundu Farm, south-east of Mutare, where he is harvesting and selling bananas estimated to be worth US$40 000 a week.
His lawyer, Gerald Mlotshwa, said: “My client stays at the property and continues to exercise his rights vested to him in terms of his offer letter until such time there is a court order to the contrary.”
This is a major setback for Matanuska, whose Malaysian investors, Rainbow Century SDN BHD, were optimistic of regaining their plantation following a meeting with Vice-President Nkomo two weeks ago.
Nkomo reportedly promised to use his office to help the Malasyian investors regain the occupied property which falls under a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa).
The Vice-President met the Malaysian investors after they complained that the government was not protecting its investments.
Rainbow Century wrote a strongly-worded letter addressed to the Malaysian Embassy in Harare and copied it to top Zimbabwean government officials including Nkomo, Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his deputy Arthur Mutambara, Chief Secretary of Cabinet Misheck Sibanda and several cabinet ministers.
A week after the meeting with Nkomo, Chimonyo consented to a High Court application by Matanuska demanding that he surrenders some parts of the occupied plantation on the grounds they were not gazetted for resettlement.
Chimonyo surrendered Zonwe Ranch and Chiremba which, he said, he had mistook to be part of Fangundu Farm.
But in a dramatic turn of events, Matanuska was taken before the Magistrates Courts in Mutare last Wednesday accused of contravening the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act in that they failed to vacate Fangundu Farm once it was gazetted for resettlement. The trial was set for April 8 this year.
Chimonyo occupied Fangundu Farm during the festive season stoking a protracted legal battle with Matanuska, a banana producing and marketing entity. It is one of the major producers of bananas in the region and has a sophisticated industrial production process on its premises.

 

Kelvin Jakachira

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