Police recently pounced on Lesbury farm and evicted Robert Smart, a white commercial farmer who was occupying the farm that is located 26km out of Rusape to pave way for Manhanga. It is widely viewed that Mugabe’s controversial land reform programme in 2000 saw the seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to Zanu PF cronies. It is reported that armed police fired tear gas on hundreds of villagers who were protesting against the forced eviction of the white farmer.
In an exclusive interview with The Zimbabwean today at his Mutare offices, Manhanga said he was not politically attached to Zanu PF party and had no close links to Mugabe. Manhanga stands accused by the society and other church organisations for immorality and ungodly conduct. “I have not behaved in an unchristian or immoral manner. I am in legal and lawful possession of an offer letter issued on 15th March 2015 to a piece of land measuring 100 hectares of Lesbury Estates in Makoni District, Manicaland. Lesbury Estates measures 700 hectares in extent. Lesbury Estate was lawfully acquired by the government in 2001,” he said. Manhanga owns 100 hectares of the land.
Manhanga said he was a law abiding and loyal citizen who respected the present government and its leader who is President Mugabe. “I am not aligned to any party. I have no links to Zanu PF or President Mugabe whatsoever. I work with all political parties for the good of this country. I have worked with President Mugabe and Tsvangirai (Morgan, MDC-T leader). I have worked with all other parties, so I don’t see any reason why I am being accused of having any links to Mugabe and Zanu PF. In fact I support good policies,” said Manhanga. “I have done prayers for both Zanu PF and MDC-T functions for the good of the nation,” he added.
Manhanga quashed assertions that he was offered part of the farm because he was a Zanu PF cleric. “I applied for land as anyone else. The district lands officer in Rusape then offered me that land. It was not me who said I want Lesbury Farm. The land officers are the ones who took me there and told me that I have been allocated that land,” he explained. “I approached Mr Smart in an orderly and peaceful manner on four occasions between March 2015 and April 2017 seeking a mutually beneficial coexistence but was met with insults, threats of violence, death, and acts of violence, destruction of property and assault,” Manhanga explained.
“In one incident two of my workers were so severely assaulted they had to be taken to hospital for treatment in another I bore the ignominy of being called a ‘boy’ by Mr Smart’s son and in yet another incident, I and one of my workers survived severe injury and death by a whisker, all this at the hands of Mr. Smart’s workers and associates,” he said. Manhanga said some of these matters were currently before the criminal court in Rusape with charges having being laid against the perpetrators.
He emphasised that there were two court orders from the magistrate’s court in Rusape and the other from the High Court in Harare that ordered Smart to vacate Lesbury Estate. “Mr. Smart, therefore, did not vacate as per the High Court order and this was not an exceptional case, the Sheriff of the High Court proceeded to give Mr. Smart a notice of eviction. The notice of eviction was served on Mr. Smart on Wed 7th June giving him 48 hours to comply with the High Court order,” he explained.
“When the Sheriff went to serve the notice of eviction the Sheriff was met with resistance and threats of violence. This led to the Sheriff requesting the assistance of the ZRP with the eviction. When the Sheriff returned to carry out the eviction on Friday 9th June the Sheriff was met with resistance and the process could not be carried out due to situation prevailing,” Manhanga said. He added the Sheriff returned on June 22 -23 in the company of Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Support Unit and the eviction was carried out.
Manhanga said Smart was not violently evicted. “Those who claim to be adherents to the rule of law cannot turn a blind eye when an officer of the court is threatened and stopped from carrying out a lawful order of the court simply because the order is not in their favour. Either we all adhere to the rule of law or we don’t,” clarified Manhanga.
“If we don’t, we then accept to live under a state of anarchy. Currently in Zimbabwe there are many people having their property or properties attached by the Messenger of Court or Sheriff of the High Court for various reasons. These people are not resisting the due process of the courts and know what to do if they feel aggrieved by the actions of the court officials. What is so different about Mr. Smart?” asked Manhanga.