The High Court has stopped attempts by the lands ministry to seize a 50-hectare farm in Mount Hampden from a man who has owned it since 1981.
The government gazetted the property for compulsory acquisition on April 6, 2012, but Bruce Charles Alexander said he only became aware of the gazetting when he applied for a sub-division permit to the Mashonaland West provincial town planner last year.
Alexander said he was advised that the lands ministry intended to use the land for resettlement and agricultural use.
The High Court heard that the same piece of land had been gazetted by the Zvimba Rural District Council on August 4, 2006, which designated it as reserved for industrial, commercial, residential and supportive or incidental structures.
The Zvimba RDC plan zoned a total area of 13,990 hectares of land, designating it as urban land. The plan came into effect on September 1, 2006.
Alexander, who sued lands minister Anxious Masuka, applied to the Harare High Court to have the gazetting of the property by the government declared null and void.
He also wanted the court to declare him the rightful owner.
Alexander argued that the land could not be expropriated for agricultural purposes because it had been gazetted as urban land in 2006. He argued that the minister did not contest that the land in question was indeed urban land.
Masuka, who opposed the application through his acting permanent secretary Gibson Chijarira, argued that the relief being sought was incompetent. He argued that Alexander should have sought an order expressly declaring the action unconstitutional instead.
Justice Never Katiyo ruled: “There is nothing put forward by the minister to the effect that the 2006 gazetting was reversed or revoked before the 2012 gazetting was put in place.
“It was argued by the minister’s legal practitioners that a gazette is not law but a mere notice, but if this argument is to be followed it would jeopardise the whole purpose for its function.
“Having considered the analysis as above, this court is persuaded by Alexander’s arguments. There is no tangible argument put forward by the minister.
“A mere perusal of the minister’s affidavit and heads of argument clearly demonstrates absence of defence on their opposition. It was opposed for the sake of opposing.”
Justice Katiyo added: “Alexander’s application succeeds to the extent that the position reverts back to status of 2006 when the land was put under General Notice 3 of 2006 as subsequently gazetted under Zvimba Rural District Council.
“The listing and gazetting of the above property by the respondent in the government gazette published on April 6, 2012, under General Notice 134 of 2012 be and is hereby declared null and void.” ZimLive