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AFMA Church locked in land dispute with commercial farmer

THE Apostolic Faith Mission of Africa (AFMA) is locked in a legal wrangle with a commercial farmer over a piece of land in Mangwe District in Matabeleland South, which was acquired by Government and subsequently allocated to the church.

The church, whose headquarters is in Lobengula Extension in Bulawayo, is accusing the former owner of Darnaway Farm in Mangwe district Mr Garry Rosenfels of blocking it from accessing water from a nearby dam and damaging the water infrastructure.

Mr Rosenfels had two farms adjacent to each other and it was suggested that he cedes one and keep the other.

The church, through its lawyers Gill, Godlonton and Gerrans Legal Practitioners, filed an urgent chamber application for a spoliation order at the Bulawayo High Court citing Mr Rosenfels, his company Mangwe Paprika Growers Co-operative and the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Masuka as respondents.

The church wants an order directing Mr Rosenfels and Mangwe Paprika Growers Co-operative and all those acting through them to restore its access to water, which flows through a pipeline connected to the dam.

The church also wants the two respondents to return the pipes and fertiliser dissolver machines, among other farming equipment.

In his founding affidavit, the church representative Mr Busani Dube said they were allocated the farm by Government through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement in 2009.

“The church has been in peaceful and undisturbed occupation of the full extent of Darnaway Farm with unhindered access to water on the farm from the dam. The second respondent (Mr Rosenfels) was the previous owner of the farm before it was acquired by the State and handed over to the church to his great displeasure,” he said.

“The second respondent remains in occupation of the adjacent farm named Lydeard Farm. The church and the second respondent share the use of a nearby dam with one main pipeline that branches off into Mr Rosenfels’ farm first then further downstream into the church farm.”

Mr Dube said since 2009 they have been enjoying unlimited access to the water from the dam through the main pipe.

“Water is a critical component of the church’s activities and currently we have tender crops under irrigation which will be destroyed if access to water is not restored immediately. The church uses water for domestic use and in conducting various farming activities such as growing crops and keeping livestock for the benefit of the church and its congregants,” he said.

Mr Dube said the proceeds from the farming activities are used by the church to fund and run orphanages and support widows and vulnerable groups.

He said Mr Rosenfels last month blocked the pipeline and prevented the flow of water into their farm.

“The actions of the second respondent were unreasonable. As law abiding citizens, we reported the matter to the police, who refused to assist us, saying it was a civil matter which should be handled by the Lands Ministry,” said Mr Dube.

“On October 12, 2021, the second respondent vandalised the pipes, blocking the church from accessing water.”

Mr Dube said when they tried to approach Mr Rosenfels at his farm, they were met with violence and resistance with three gunshots being fired in the process. No one was injured.

He said the gunshots were meant to intimidate church members.

“We believe such conduct is of criminal nature, but police in Mangwe have shown no interest in getting involved in this matter,” said Mr Dube.

Mangwe Paprika Growers Co-operative recently filed summons at the same court under case number HC1239/21 seeking an eviction order against the church from the disputed farm.

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