Zimbabwe: Arda Approaches High Court Over Illegal Settlers

The Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) has filed an urgent application at the High Court seeking to bar a group of people from invading its dairy farm at Nyarungu Estate in Stoneridge, Harare.

ARDA recently secured an investment to upgrade operations at the farm, but discovered that members of a group calling itself Takunda Freedom Fighters had allocated themselves residential stands inside the farm.

The matter was heard before Justice Paul Musithu on Tuesday and postponed to August 17.

ARDA wants the court to issue an interdict stopping members of the group from encroachment on the farm and constructing any barricades on the main road leading to the farm.

It also wants the court to issue a declaratory stating that ARDA is the lawful owner of the property in question, since it holds the title deeds.

ARDA is ramping up its operations around the country following the recent launch of its transformational strategic plan, and apart from investment it has secured, the authority is also receiving Government support to drive its mandate in line with Vision 2030.

In the application, ARDA said the investment it secured entailed revamping operations at the farm by increasing the dairy herd, installing new equipment, and treatment of the farm as a bio safety area for purposes of dairy production.

The bio safety area status means that strict health and safety guidelines should be observed regarding entry and exit of vehicular and human traffic to avoid harmful bacteria infecting the cows or entering the milk production system, said the authority.

"In pursuance of this investment, the applicant commenced construction of a perimeter fence on the farm on or about Thursday the 7th of July 2021," said ARDA in the application.

"On or about the 9th July 2021, applicant discovered that a group of people calling themselves Takunda Freedom Fighters had removed the fence and were preventing further construction.

"The respondents blocked access to the farm by erecting a barricade on the main road into the farm. Upon inquiry, the 1st to 16th respondents became violent and they started to protest and chant slogans demanding land on the estate."

ARDA said the behaviour of the group was prejudicial to its legitimate rights and interests in the project it is running and, indeed, to its property.

It said its interests in the farm were being affected by the group's removal of the perimeter fence, the group's violent behaviour and total disregard to health and safety standards, as the group's members were entering the bio safe environment with reckless abandon, without use of any chemicals to sterilise themselves and were threatening staff.

ARDA said it was important for the matter to be heard urgently to prevent he group from proceeding with the violent vandalism of the farm property, as well as disruption of legitimate commercial activities.

ARDA's founding affidavit reveals that it took transfer of the estate measuring 40 464.1 hectares held under deed of transfer number 2675/95 in 1995.

"Since then, the applicant has always been on the farm carrying out its dairy processing farming projects and training of dairy farmers for the benefit of the applicant and the whole nation at large," the authority said.

"However, due to various economic challenges, activities at the farm slowed down in recent years."

ARDA said it was impossible to roll-out investment through increasing of the dairy herd, installation of new machinery and refurbishment of ageing equipment, as well as the reinstallation of a bio secure safety bubble around the operation in the presence of the illegal occupiers of the farm.

In the process of activities to start the upgrading of the farm, ARDA discovered that the group members had allocated themselves stands there under the name Takunda Freedom Fighters.

"On engagement with the respondents, they became violent, protesting that the property belonged to them as freedom fighters," ARDA said.

"Even after the arrest of the respondents, they have continued to interfere with the erection of the fence and have protested inside the estate against the same, which actions are bringing potentially harmful bacteria into the bio safe environment that applicant is creating."

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