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Victory for businessman as court orders govt to return farms snatched from him

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By Mary Taruvinga

A MARONDERA businessman, Godfrey Gonese has won a bruising legal tug-of-war involving his farm which was grabbed by an Italian, Francesco Marconati with the Zimbabwean government’s blessings.

High Court judge, David Mangota ruled that the farm solely belongs to Gonese adding it was court’s finding that the farm was never sold to Marconati at any time.

Marconati was running Lowveld Leather Products (Private) Limited at the farms and the company was cited as the first respondent while Lands minister, Perrance Shiri was the second respondent.

“Judgement is hereby entered in favour of the applicant as against the respondents in the following terms, an order declaring that there was never any sale of certain two pieces of land situated in the district of Marandellas called Mlanje of Roraima and Clifton Roraima, held under Deed of Transfer No. 0007727/97, order declaring two pieces of land in mentioned above solely belonging to the applicant and costs of suit on a legal client scale, against first respondent,” ruled Mangota.

Gonese fingered the lands ministry in a questionable acquisition of his farms, arguing he was cheated out of his property while he was living 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 Marconati.

In his application, Gonese said his company had entered into an agreement of lease with Marconati of a Leather factory 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 the Lands ministry.

He said Lowveld Leather Products borrowed US$200 000 from the International Financial Corporation (IFC) and upon defaulting payment on or around 2002, the instituted proceedings against Lowveld Leather for recovery of monies under case cover HC 1130/02.

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

He said in a bid to avoid sale in execution of its attached movable goods, he 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.

According to Gonese, his property has since been unlawfully acquired by the ministry of lands under unclear circumstances and leased to Marconati.

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

It was his successful submission that Marconati only came in to settle his debt and it is for the same reason why the Deed of Transfer remained in his name.

Gonese claimed that unbeknown to him, Marconati went behind his back claiming he bought the said farms from him.

As events unfolded, he was then stopped from either visiting the farm of passing by.

“I would be arrested and I believe there was an illegal attempt to deprive me of my right over the said properties in favour of Marconati,” he said.

“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.”

The farmer went on to complain that the Lands ministry adopted a most arrogant posture on the determination of ownership dispute.