High Court Rules Tenant Can Get Title Deeds
10 March 2024
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By Dorrothy Moyo | This groundbreaking decision by the High Court of Zimbabwe marks a revolutionary shift in property law and tenant rights, granting for the first time, a pathway for tenants to claim ownership of properties they have diligently maintained and financially sustained through rates and rentals over an extended period. The ruling, deeply rooted in the Prescription Act, underscores a significant legal transformation that could empower countless tenants with a new sense of permanence and ownership.

The case that set this historic precedent involved Mr. Ishmael Kusafunga Kaguru, who, since 1986, had leased a farm in the Bubi District, diligently paying rates and rentals. His unwavering commitment to the property and its upkeep for over three decades became the cornerstone of this landmark case. Mr. Kaguru, represented by Cheda and Cheda Associates, challenged the ownership of the farm, leveraging the Prescription Act to assert his rightful claim to the land he had occupied and nurtured for more than 30 years.

Mr. Kaguru’s affidavit paints a vivid picture of his deep connection to the farm, stating, “Since 1989, I have been in undisturbed possession of the farm where I have continued in the business of farming to the present day. I have been in open possession of the farm for an uninterrupted period of 36 years and I have been responsible for the payment of the levies and taxes for the farm.” His dedication and the legal groundwork laid by his attorneys brought this case to the attention of Justice Maxwell Takuva, who, upon review, recognized Mr. Kaguru’s rights to ownership.

Justice Takuva’s ruling not only affirmed Mr. Kaguru’s ownership but also set a legal precedent, highlighting the Prescription Act’s role in property ownership. “It is ordered that the plaintiff be declared the owner of a certain piece of land…by virtue of prescription having openly possessed the property as if he were the owner from 1986 to present day,” the judgement read. This decision underlines the court’s acknowledgment of the profound bond and stewardship tenants like Mr. Kaguru establish over decades of tenancy, offering them a previously unimaginable opportunity to transition from tenants to rightful owners.

The implications of this ruling are profound. It paves the way for a reevaluation of tenant-landlord relationships and property rights, granting tenants who have shown unwavering dedication and financial commitment to a property the unprecedented chance to pursue ownership. This landmark case is a testament to the evolving landscape of property law in Zimbabwe, recognizing the value of long-term stewardship and the inherent rights of those who, through their labour and investment, have essentially become the de facto owners of their leased properties.