Businessman up in arms with govt after farms fraudulently taken

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE Lands Ministry has been fingered in a controversial acquisition of farms belonging to a Marondera businessman, Godfrey Gonese who is now seeking court’s intervention to recover stolen property.

Gonese, the director of Lowveld Leather Products, Private Limited has approached the High court after he was cheated out of his property while he was residing outside the country.

The farms and everything in it including schools, the leather factory and other things according to Gonese, who is Lowveld Leather factory director, were unlawfully given to an Italian, Francesco Marconati.

In his application, Gonese said his company had entered into an agreement of lease with Marconati of a Leather factory situated at Mlanje of Roraima and the lease agreement was valid for only two years commencing 2003 and ending 2005.

“Lowveld Leather Products has been operational since then and used to be very productive until 2005 when its two farms were compulsorily acquired by the government through ministry of Lands.

The applicant (Lowveld Leather Products) borrowed money US$200 000 from the International Financial Corporation (IFC). Upon defaulting payment on or around 2002, the latter instituted proceedings against Lowveld Leather for recovery of monies aforesaid under case cover HC 1130/02,” reads the application.

According to Gonese, in his founding affidavit that was the time he decided to rope in Marconati so that he clears the debt.

“Applicant in a bid to avoid sale in execution of its attached movable goods as aforesaid then negotiated with the judgement creditor International Finance Corporation (IFC) to stay execution of its property. As a result of the said negotiations, the parties reached an agreement and execution was successfully stayed pending certain arrangements.

“In other words, there was never any agreement by the applicant with Marconati or anyone else to sell the farms in question, either by private treaty or by an auction. Applicant will thus put the respondents to the strictest proof of their allegations that there was a sale of the said two farms to Marconati.

“As a material term of the lease agreement of the leather factory between the applicant and Marconati, the latter was mandated to settle Lowveld Leather’s indebtedness to IFC in the sum of US$200 000 and in return it was given the right to use a leather factory for two years as aforesaid,” he wrote.

According to Gonese his property has since been unlawfully acquired by the ministry of lands under unclear circumstances and leased to Marconati who was cited as the first respondent in the court application under ten-year lease.

Gonese said the property is still registered in his name showing that it was never sold to anyone but leased for two years as collateral.

“Marconati only came in to settle applicant’s debt and it is for the same reason why the Deed of Transfer remained in the applicant’s name.”
Gonese claimed that unbeknown to him Marconati went behind his back alleging and masquerading that he bought the said farms from him.

“After that time, I was then stopped from either visiting the farm of passing by and I would be arrested and I believe there was an illegal attempt to deprive the applicant from its right over the said properties in favour of Marconati.

I strongly believe there was a ploy by the law enforcement agents together with the ministry of lands to deprive the applicant of its rights and title over the said properties and thus this matter needs ventilation by this honourable court.”

He said he is disgruntled because the Lands ministry Land commission have adopted a most arrogant posture on the determination of ownership dispute.

“It is thus bruising and difficult to understand the basis of the decision which resulted in acquisition of said land. I am left with no option and I have been directed by the ministry of Lands to approach this court for determination of the issue of ownership,” said Gonese.

Lowveld Leather Products was cited as the applicant in the matter while Marconati, ministry of Lands, Lands Commission were cited as respondents.

The case is pending.