Hapelt and his wife were given up to August 01, 2011 to leave the farm they have stayed all their lives because it was designated for resettlement by government in 2003.
Hapelt who has hearing and sight problems looked visibly ill and frail in court due to an attack by a gang suspected to have been sent by Mangena in 2010. He was accompanied by his wife, who was witness to the case.
Regional magistrate Siphatekile Msipa said a lenient sentence had been given out to the farmer due to his age and the emotional suffering he had undergone when he was attacked by thugs who damaged among others his eardrums. However, the magistrate said if Hapelt continued to occupy the land, he will be sent to jail.
Hapelt and his wife who was a witness to the case told the court that they had remained at the farm as in their minds they believed that there were staying there legally as several government officials had visited the farm and commended the their farming. In documents presented to the court as exhibit, the couple produced a visitor’s log book where entries showed that several government officials had “proved” of their stay at the farm by praising their farming and helping other resettled farmers.
One of the entries signed by Joseph Mtakwese Made who was then Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development on 17 July 2004 reads, “Very pleasant, I felt just at home what an honour to have visited, would like to wish you and family
good farming as cattle breeders and producers.” Another entry signed by Honorable Emerson D. Mnangagwa on 26 January 2006 who was then Minister of Rural Housing and Special amenities reads, “This place is very pleasant to find one’s appreciation of beauty.” Flora Buka who was then Minister of Special Affairs for lands and Resettlement also commended the couple when she visited in 2005.
The court also heard that the Happelt family had received communication from the lands committee that they should continue farming and that they had agreed to give away 90% of their land.
The couple also told the court that they had remained at the farm as they were in possession of an administrative court order that protected them from being evicted from the farm which was however dismissed by the courts.
Regional Prosecutor Fred Kadodo had earlier dismissed both the entries and the communication from the Lands Committee as not a licence to continue to occupy the farm.
Kadodo said, “There are only three things that would have made you (the Happelt Family) legally stay at the farm that is a lease, a permit or an offer later and because they did not have any of these, they were staying illegally.”
Hapelt lawyer Advocate Chery Tim argued that Mangena had another farm in Somabula called Ripple creek.
It was believed Mangena was currently staying at Ripple Creek with his wife who is a teacher at Somabula Primary school. Mrs Happelt had argued in court what had happened to the one man one farm which the prosecutor said was his not duty to answer.
Asked outside court Kadodo said he was not aware whether Mangena had another farm or not. A lands officer said Mangena had been ordered out of Ripple Creek Farm so had nowhere to go.
Advocate Tim told Radio VOP: “I wonder whether white commercial farmers are treated differently from black farmers because my client has also put it that he has nowhere to live yet he was just told to get out yet Mangena …is still at Ripple creek because he has no alternative accommodation.”
Tim described Hapelt’s eviction as inhumane.