Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

Black commercial farmer wants SADC Tribunal reinstated

Black commercial farmer wants SADC Tribunal reinstated


May 19th, 2011

On the eve of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State in Namibia (20/21 May), a dispossessed black commercial farmer from Zimbabwe who ran a successful agricultural enterprise is selling packets of sugar to feed his family.

Luke Tembani (74), one of the first black commercial farmers after Zimbabwean independence in 1980, lost title to his farm in November 2000 when it was unilaterally auctioned by the Agricultural Bank of Zimbabwe (ABZ), to cover a loan.

Despite Tembani’s proposal to sell off a viable section of the farm to cover the debt, his entire property was sold to a third party at a fraction of the value estimated by an independent valuator.

Tembani took his case to the High Court of Zimbabwe, which eventually ruled in his favour, but the ABZ appealed to the Supreme Court whose members – apart from one judge – were recipients of “redistributed” farms, and in November 2007 the execution of the sale was upheld.

With no recourse to justice in Zimbabwe, Tembani took his case to the SADC Tribunal in Windhoek, Namibia, where it was heard on 5 June 2009. He won the case and the Zimbabwe government was told to take all the necessary measures not to evict him from the property and to stop interfering with his use and occupation of the farm.

Despite the protection of the SADC Tribunal, in October 2009 Tembani and his family were evicted from the farmhouse where they’d been living and struggling to survive. They were not allowed to remove any of their farm equipment, are now virtually destitute and want justice.


Tembani’s first job in 1954 was working in the garden of a private home. Subsequently he took up an apprenticeship, but his objective was to become a commercial farmer. Three years later, he enrolled at Chibero Agricultural College in Norton. On completion of the course, he became a farm manager on a dairy farm in the Nyazura district, where he worked for 18 years.

Three years after independence, Tembani was ready to farm for himself and acquired a five-year lease of a farm called Minverwag, a 1,265ha property in Nyazura, with an option to buy. The farmer, Helgard Muller, gave him a free lease to help him get established.

The Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), subsequently renamed the Agriculture Bank of Zimbabwe (ABF), provided a loan and in 1985 Tembani became the registered owner.

He was appointed onto the Rural District Council and served as Provincial Chairman for the Indigenous Commercial Farmers’ Union.

Tembani built up Minverwag into a highly profitable enterprise comprising up to 100 hectares of tobacco, 80ha of maize, 5ha of marigolds, 10ha of paprika and 40ha of wheat/soya rotation. He also invested time and resources to improve the farm’s irrigation system.

Over the years his beef herd was increased to 600 animals and he also developed a pig unit with 16 sows and an ostrich project with up to 89 breeding birds.

In 1986 Tembani decided to build a school and provide education for the children of farm workers from the area, but neither the Ministry of Education nor the Rural Council were able to assist.

He went ahead, using his own money generated from the farm, and the following year opened Chimwanda Primary School with four classrooms and free schooling for 321 pupils between grades 1 and 7, an office and accommodation for eight teachers.

He also sunk a borehole, improved his employees’ housing and built a church hall.

During the 1990s, when interest rates escalated sharply and there two were serious national droughts (1992 and 1994), many commercial farmers ran into financial difficulties.

Tembani, who had invested substantially in his school, was among them, so he met with the planning department of the AFC and arranged to sell off a viable 418 hectare section of the farm as a subdivision in 1996.

The AFC agreed that this would cover his debt and buyers were found while they waited for the title deeds to be issued.

Subsequently the renamed ABZ failed to verify the exact value of Tembani’s debt and reneged on the arrangement, auctioning the entire, undivided property in November 2000 for a mere Z$6 million although an independent valuator valued the property at Z$15 million.

“Only two buyers were present and the farm was sold to Takawira Zembe, a businessman who only paid 10 percent at the auction and who is believed to have as many as 18 farming enterprises in the country gained in this way,” said Tembani.

When Zembe took over Minverwag, he petitioned the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe to undertake the running of the school.

After Tembani’s eviction in 2009, Zembe refused to let his twins attend the school their father built, unless Tembani ceded total ownership of the farm to Zembe and withdrew his appeal against the eviction.

“Zembe is not operating Minverwag as a commercial farming enterprise but has cut it into plots for peasant farmers who are paying him for the use of the land,” Tembani said.

At the beginning of April 2011, Tembani joined commercial farmer Mike Campbell in signing papers to take the SADC Heads of State to the Tribunal for initiating its suspension.

In calling for the review, the SADC Heads of State denied Tembani access to the Tribunal to claim damages against the Zimbabwe government for refusing to comply with his SADC judgment.

Campbell died a few days after signing from injuries sustained during his abduction and brutal beating after the contentious Presidential run-off election in June 2008, but Tembani remains resolute. “The Tribunal must continue to function in all respects as established by the SADC Treaty,” he said.

Tembani, his wife and their two children now live in basic rented accommodation and are without an income. They cannot afford the school fees of US$300 per term for their daughter, Mildred (15), or for their son, Luke (10) who requires US$70 per term.

Their other daughter, Terrylee, who was Luke’s twin sister, was killed tragically in March this year when she was electrocuted due to poor wiring in their rented accommodation.

“As I speak to you, at the age of 74, I’m sitting on an old stool with nothing, despite all the years of hard work,” said Tembani. “We live hand-to-mouth selling little bags of sugar and other basics in a difficult and competitive environment, instead of contributing to food security.”

“When the hungry season comes, the food situation is going to be serious in Zimbabwe,” Tembani warned. “There has been a major drought and between 75 and 80 percent of the people have been affected. The irrigation systems are not functioning and the land is lying idle.”

“My wife and I want our farm back but right now it’s too political,” Thembani said regretfully. “If we had the money to open a small shop and stock it with tools, hardware and other more profitable goods it would be easier to survive. We had a lot of money in the bank before the Zimbabwe dollar crashed. But when it collapsed and was replaced by the US dollar, we were left with nothing.”

See the previous blogs about Luke Tembani and his family:

Luke Tembani’s children forced out of the school their father built – 27th October 2009
Luke Tembani’s property sold
– 4 November 2009


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