Evicted farmer sues for return of £2m assets

December 24, 2001 at 10:33 am Leave a comment


Evicted farmer sues for return of £2m assets
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
(Filed: 24/12/2001)


ONE of President Robert Mugabe’s closest allies has evicted a white farmer from his land and seized assets estimated to be worth £2 million, according to court papers filed in Zimbabwe.

The farmer, Guy Watson-Smith, is launching the first legal action against any member of Mr Mugabe’s inner circle allegedly implicated in the illegal seizure of land and assets. Fearing for his safety, Mr Watson-Smith, 51, has fled to South Africa.

The target of his action is Gen Solomon Mujuru, also known as Rex Nhongo, the leader of Mr Mugabe’s Zanla guerrilla forces during the independence war. In post-independence Zimbabwe he went on to become army chief before leaving government service in 1995.

Gen Mujuru went into business after leaving the government and owns a clutch of commercial farms, but remains in Mr Mugabe’s inner circle as a member of the ruling Zanu-PF politburo and central committee.

He is also one of the most feared men in the country. His wife, Joyce, is water affairs minister in the Zimbabwe cabinet.

Mr Watson-Smith has asked the Supreme Court court to force Joseph Made, the Minister of Agriculture; Ignatius Chombo, the home affairs minister; “Comrade Zhou”, a “war veteran”, and Gen Mujuru to hand over his movable assets on the farm, including tractors, vehicles and irrigation equipment.

In Pretoria, where he is staying with relatives, Mr Watson-Smith said: “We will stay in South Africa for as long as this takes.”

According to court papers, Mr-Watson Smith, under severe threat of physical harm, was forced by so-called war veterans to leave his farms in the Beatrice district, 40 miles south of Harare, three months ago.

Early this month, Gen Mujuru drove Mr Watson-Smith to his farm, the first time he had been allowed on the premises for more than two months, and ordered him to tell the farm workers they would be working for a new management.

Mr Watson-Smith was told if he went home to pack, the removal trucks would be burned, so his wife Vicky, 44, son, Adam, 17, and daughter, Alice, 15, packed their possessions and abandoned the farm.

Yesterday, Mr Watson-Smith said: “I met Mujuru several times since my problems began. I was grasping at straws. I had been to all the government officials, and could get no reasoned response, or any response at all, so I approached Mujuru because he cast himself in the role of go-between.

“I suspected, behind the scenes, he was pulling the strings. He was reasonable and courteous. Then he changed.”

Entry filed under: Past, Present, Zimbabwe Politics.

Family flees country as Mujuru invades farms

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