Wednesday 3 April 2024


Weeks of tension, uncertainty, and restlessness for nine Mushandike villagers who were facing eviction from their homes of more than 20 years under the just-ended ‘Operation Order No To Land Barons’ have been put to a halt after the group had a suspension of eviction order revoked at the High Court in Masvingo on March 28, 2024.

The appellants, Simplisiyo Mugorongi, Wetsi Chibamure, Gladys Mugorongi, Thomas Dzimbanhete, Dzingira Chipatiso, Tazvivinga Chipatiso, Lameck Makanda, and Farai Tauya are lucky to be spending the Easter holidays in their homes while waiting for the hearing of an appeal against conviction and sentence to be heard at the High Court in Masvingo during the second term of the High Court.

The appellants earlier appeared at Masvingo Magistrates’ Court facing charges of occupying gazetted land without lawful authority. They were convicted after a full trial on February 13, and were sentenced to three months imprisonment wholly suspended on conditions of good behavior and were ordered to vacate the land in question on or before March 31, 2024.

The group was not satisfied with the sentence and through their lawyer Yolander Chandata, filed for an appeal at the magistrate’s court where the matter was further turned down with the court saying the appellants were illegal settlers and the notice period was reasonable enough.

The matter was further taken to the High Court where an appeal was made on March 26 and the matter was set to be heard on March 28 since it was urgent.

The matter appeared before Justice Sunsley Zisengwe based on the ruling of the magistrate to the effect that the nine appellants were illegal settlers because they did not have the required paperwork which is the permit, lease, or offer letter.

They argued that the court had erred in that the appellants were not illegal settlers in the strict sense of the matter but were people who had been settling on the land for more than 20 years and were making payments to the relevant local authority during their stay on the particular land.

Further to that the law which was said to have been violated by the appellants was not the best to tackle the matter as they were being charged with contravening the Gazetted Land Act. The gazette that was produced by the court was a 1982 gazette but then the Act which they were said to have contravened was a 2006 Act hence in legal terms they cannot be charged with an offense that is said to have happened before the Act became law which is more of applying the law in retrospect.

It was also noted that the appellants had high prospects of success on appeal as they had gotten information from government officials to settle on that piece of land acting on that incorrect information.

They argued that the court should have acquitted them since they had not settled themselves but were rather acting on the instruction of a government official which if wrong should lead to an acquittal.

Regarding the eviction order, the group argued that they are people who had lifetime investments going on as this is a place they called home with structures, houses, boreholes, and other viable projects as they are all farmers hence giving them a notice period to vacate the place by March 31 is unreasonable considering that astronomical efforts have been put in place by the applicants.

The High Court found favor in the appeal against the refusal by the magistrate to grant suspension of the eviction order and got the order to the effect that the eviction order should be suspended pending the appeal. TellZimNews


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