Saturday, 6 March 2021

CHILONGA VILLAGERS GO TO COURT OVER EVICTIONS

THE Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) has filed an urgent chamber application at the Masvingo High Court seeking to interdict government from going ahead with its plan to displace more than 12 000 villagers from Chilonga in Chiredzi to pave way for a lucerne farming project.

Zela also filed another application challenging the constitutionality of Statutory Instrument 50 of 2021 which was promulgated by government last week,  together with its empowering provision being section 10(3)(d) of the Communal Land Act.

Chilonga villager, Livison Chikutu is the first applicant  while the land rights pressure group the Masvingo Center for Advocacy, Research and Development (MACRAD) is the second applicant.

Local Government minister July Moyo, Chiredzi Rural District Council (RDC), Lands minister Anxious Masuka and Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Ezra Chadzamira were cited as respondents.

“The applicants approached this honorable court under HC 08 /21, by making a court application which challenged the constitutionality of section 10(3)(d) of the Communal Land Act Chapter 20:04 read together with Statutory Instrument  50 of 2021 Communal Land (Setting Aside of Land) Chiredzi Notice, 2021,” the application read.

“SI 50 of 2021 ordered the Shangaan community to permanently depart from the Chilonga communal land and the setting aside of such land effectively started to run from the 26th of February, 2021, being the day of publication. Despite the pending challenge that the applicants have made before this honorable court, the threat, to be forcibly remove the Shangaan community subsists and as such, applicants have approached this honourable court on an urgent basis, seeking an interdict, barring the respondents, or anyone acting through them to enforce SI 50 OF 2021 pending the determination of the constitutional challenge that has been mounted to the same.

“The enforcement of this order, creates a reasonable apprehension of harm in any person, as the harm that the Shangaan people are fearful of is being placed into a state of homelessness, without any alternative to housing or shelter and forsaking all immovable structure they have developed in this community for years.

“The land in question resonates with their religious and cultural beliefs, and banishing them from this land would have stripped them of their rights as provided for at law. The balance of convenience favors the granting of this application, as the applicants will be greatly prejudiced and permanently so, if the respondents are left to operationalise or enforce Statutory Instrument 50 of 2021, and yet, the constitutionality of the same has been challenged.

“The applicants have no alternative remedy available for them as the first respondent’s decision has been made into law, save for challenging the same, and seeking that the  regulations be set aside pending the determination of the constitutionality of the same,” read Zela’s urgent chamber application.

In the second application (case number 08/21) challenging SI 50 of 2021, as well as section 10(3)(d) of the Communal Land Act, MACRAD claims that Section 10(3)(d) of the Communal Land Act is constitutionally invalid as it violates section 74 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

It further seeks a declarator to the effect that Statutory Instrument 50 of 2021 is also unconstitutional as it infringes villagers’ rights not to be subjected to arbitrary evictions; right to dignity; right to religion and the right to procedurally and substantively fair administrative justice.

“The first applicant alleges that SI 50 of 2021 read together with section 10(3)(d) of the Communal Land Act is unconstitutional as it infringes on the right not be subject to arbitrary eviction as provided for under section 74 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, right to administrative action that is fair and just as provided under section 68 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the right to dignity as provided by section 54, right to equal protection and benefit of the law.”

The applicants argue that the Shangaan villagers have been affected by numerous evictions before when they paved way for sugarcane production in the Lowveld.

The two cases are yet to be set down for hearing. Newsday

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