Former farmer loses bid to remain in retirement home

A former Lowveld farmer has lost his bid to remain in his retirement home, bringing an end to an almost four year battle to retain his property rights.

74 year old Peter Hingeston this week entered into a plea bargain with the State after being charged with refusing to vacate so-called ‘state land’. The property in question is his retirement home in the Vumba mountains, where he moved after being forced off his Lowveld sugar cane farm in the mid 2000s.

It’s understood that a top Mutare police official has been after the Vumba property for about four years, and has laid claim to the land under the land grab scheme.

Hingeston was charged under the Gazetted Lands Act and has been in and out of court trying to secure his rights to his land. Last month, the legal battle took a new turn when Hingeston was arrested and jailed for almost three weeks.

He was finally released on bail and this week he appeared in the Mutare magistrate’s court for trial.

On Wednesday his lawyer entered into a plea bargain with the state where Hingeston pleaded guilty to the charges, on the understanding that he would be given 60 days to vacate his property. This had allegedly been agreed with the prosecutor the day before the trial.

But regardless of this agreement, the magistrate fined Hingeston and gave him 30 days to vacate his home.

According to the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), this court order is “exceptional,” because most of the recent sentences passed down against farmers included a 90 day period to vacate their properties. The CFU said that in Hingeston’s case “very little consideration was taken of his advanced age and current illnesses.”

He also has no other permanent home to go to now that he has lost both his farm in Triangle and his residential property in the Vumba without any form of compensation,” the CFU said. SW Radio Africa

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