from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – MORE than 12 000 villagers in southeast Zimbabwe risk eviction from their ancestral lands after the High Court dismissed an application to evict them.
The government plans to evict the villagers from the 12 940 hectares of land in the Chilonga area of Chiredzi, reportedly to make way for a commercial agriculture project.
The villagers were challenging some provisions of Sections 4 and Section 6(1)(b) of the Communal Land Act, which vests rural land in the President.
This legislation vests rural land in the President but critics and the villagers argue it is unconstitutional and offend some provisions of the Constitution.
Villagers had sought the assistance of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
High Court Judge Justice Joseph Mafusire dismissed the legal challenge by the villagers some who are farmers growing sorghum, maize and millet while some are contracted for a local beverages manufacturer for the production of sorghum.
Mafusire dismissed the application after ruling that the impugned sections in the Communal Land Act do not violate the Constitution.
He proposed that without some sort of Commission of Inquiry on Zimbabwe’s agrarian reform especially as it applies to communal lands, the courts may not be sufficiently qualified to provide a wholesome solution to the question of private ownership of communal lands.
Mafusire said the Executive and the Legislature are better placed than the courts on the issue.
The issue of land is among the most emotive in Zimbabwe.
The government embarked on reforms in 2000 when mostly-white farmers were stripped of the land.
This was blamed for stifling food production but government blames sabotage by former colonial master, Britain, and the West.
– CAJ News