Court stops farm evictions

Court stops farm evictions
Published: 15 December 2017 (180 Views)
NEARLY 400 families illegally occupying Heany Junction Farm in Umguza district, Matabeleland North got a reprieve after the High Court temporarily blocked Government from evicting them without a court order.

The ruling by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi followed an urgent chamber application by four Zanu-PF youths challenging their eviction from the farm.

In papers before the court, Ms Ntombizodwa Mhlanga, Mr Bishop Ngwenya, Mr Nqobani Ndlovu and Mr Zephania Dube, who are part of the illegal occupiers of the farm, cited Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, the Prosecutor-General Mr Ray Goba and Lands, Agriculture and Rural

Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri, his Home Affairs and Culture counterpart Obert Mpofu and Ms Sibonginkosi Moyo, a Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement employee, as respondents.

The applicants, who are being represented by Pundu and Company, sought an order interdicting the respondents from evicting them from Heany Junction Farm and demolishing their homesteads without a court order.

Justice Mathonsi ruled that the action by the anti-riot police acting on the orders of the respondents was unlawful.

"The narrative of this matter suggests that the applicants, who are all members of Zanu-PF Youth League, were encouraged to settle themselves or at least officialdom remained complicit as they unlawfully invaded tracts of land at Heany Junction Farm just outside Bulawayo in 2013. Not only is the Government required to apply to court for an eviction order, it is also required to provide alternative land before it moves occupiers who took occupation with its full blessing," he said.

Justice Mathonsi said the respondents' conduct was not justified since the matter is still pending before the criminal court.

"The authorities have not sought an eviction order. They have taken upon themselves to threaten eviction and demolition without any court order and the settlers cannot be evicted without a court order," said the judge.

"In the result, the respondents be and are hereby interdicted from threatening to evict, attempting to evict or evict, and in any way interfering with the applicants and other occupiers' occupation of their homesteads at Heany Junction Farm. The respondents are also interdicted from demolishing the homesteads without first seeking and being granted an order by a court of competent jurisdiction," rule the judge.

The Zanu-PF youths are part of the 385 families who illegally occupied Heany Junction Farm in January 2013.

In her founding affidavit, Ms Mhlanga said she and other applicants have been settled at Heany Junction Farm since January 2013 and built permanent homes.

"My family is one of the 385 families that settled at Heany Junction Farm in the year 2013. The applicants are also part of the people settled at the farm and the first respondent (Minister Shiri) has always known of our existence at this farm. The second respondent (Minister Mpofu) authorised our occupation at this farm as a Member of Parliament of our constituency Umguza," she said.

Ms Mhlanga said at some point she took documents with names of other applicants to the fifth respondent (Ms Moyo) who stamped them acknowledging their existence and Minister Mpofu assured them that they would not be evicted.

On November 8 this year, officials from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement teamed up with about 40 anti-riot police officers and besieged the farm ordering them to move out.

Ms Mhlanga said they were later ordered to pack their belongings and vacate their homes.

"The police then arrested us on November 8 this year in the evening and they detained us at Queens Park Police Station. The next day we appeared at the Tredgold Magistrates' Court in Bulawayo facing charges of occupying gazetted land," she said.

The applicants together with 36 other villagers last week appeared before Bulawayo provincial magistrate Ms Gladmore Mushove facing charges of occupying gazetted land without lawful authority in contravention of section 3 (1) of the Gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act.

They were remanded out of custody to January 25 in 2018 for commencement of trial.


- chronicle

Tags: Court, Evictions, Farm,
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