Thursday, 19 November 2020

VILLAGERS EVICTED FROM ANGLICAN CHURCH FARM GO TO THE HIGH COURT


NINE villagers who were ordered to vacate the disputed Anglican Church-owned Irene Farm in Matabeleland South have approached the High Court challenging their eviction.

The eviction of the applicants follows a High Court order under case number HC2444/03 directing them to vacate the farm following an application by the Anglican Church Diocese of Matabeleland.

Fidelis Ndlovu, Howard Madlunga, Dunmore Sithole, Lovemore Sibanda, Eleck Mdlongwa, Sakuranda Khumalo, Nkosilamandla Mkhwananzi, George Mhlanga and Mildred Sibanda, through their lawyers Vundhla-Phulu and Partners, filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court challenging their eviction from the property.

In papers before the court, Anglican Church Diocese of Matabeleland, the Sheriff of the High Court and Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Jongwe Masuka, were cited as respondents.

The applicants want an order permanently staying the execution of an eviction order and declaring it unlawful, arguing that they were allowed to remain on the farm by the Government following its acquisition by the State.

In his founding affidavit, Fidelis Ndlovu said the order obtained by the Anglican Church Diocese of Matabeleland under case number HC2444/03 was no longer extant as the disputed land has since been acquired by the State.

“This is an urgent chamber application for stay of execution and a declaration that the land in question was acquired and thus does not belong to the first respondent (Anglican Church Diocese of Matabeleland) anymore. During the initially stages of the fast track land reform programme, I and the other applicants, took occupation of Irene Farm before it was subsequently acquired for resettlement purposes by Government,” he said.

The applicants argued that the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement recognised their presence and authorised them to remain in occupation of the farm.

“In any case, we draw our locus standi from the fact that we are, as a matter of fact, being evicted as we are de facto occupying the land. Having settled in the year 2000, we cleared the land to prepare for tilling and fenced our fields,” said Ndlovu.

“We have been tilling the land since then and we have also built homesteads and moved livestock onto the land. We have also set up a vibrant community with both social and political structures.”

The applicants said on November 14 in 2014, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement published in the Government Gazette a notice that Irene Farm had been acquired by the State in terms of the Constitution.

The villagers said they contended the eviction order on the basis that Anglican Church Diocese of Matabeleland no longer owned the farm.

“The first respondent is no longer the owner of the farm and cannot use an order or writ that was obtained prior to acquisition to evict us. The order is no longer valid because only the State as the owner of the farm can lawfully evict the applicants,” argued Ndlovu.

“In the interim, we seek an order that pending the finalisation of the matter, the second respondent (Sheriff) be ordered to stay execution of the order obtained by the first respondent under case number HC2444/03.”

The respondents are yet to respond to the application. Chronicle

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