from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – A HIGH court in eastern Zimbabwe has halted latest attempts by authorities to displace villagers from their ancestral lands under the pretext of urbanisation.
Mutare High Court Judge, Justice Isaac Muzenda, has ordered the Chipinge Rural District Council (CRDC) to stop excavating, constructing roads and pegging residential stands within Maunganidze Communal Lands in this region in the Manicaland province, bordering Mozambique.
CRDC had since the end of November arbitrarily implemented an urbanisation process in the communal Lands under Chief Mutema, which would have displaced and affected more than 645 families.
The rollout of the urbanisation process compelled some villagers to engage the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who have filed an urgent chamber application at Mutare High Court challenging the conduct of the CRDC, which has been denounced as arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional.
Villagers lament that CRDC had started implementing the urbanisation process of the lands without consulting and engaging them. This, considering that families have been in occupation of the area for more than 100 years.
CRDC had deployed excavators into the villagers fields in late November, when officials from the local authority began pegging residential stands and constructing roads in their fields.
The human rights lawyers bemoaned that CRDC was turning the villagers’ fields into residential stands and roads on the eve of the rainy season, when they were planning to carry out their farming activities especially after receiving some agricultural inputs under a government supported programme.
The lawyers warned that the villagers would be affected by hunger if CRDC is not stopped from conducting the urbanisation process, which would rob them of their valuable ancestral land.
Justice Muzenda has ordered CRDC to stop interfering with the villagers’ livelihoods by halting implementation of the urbanisation process and reach an agreement with the villagers first and file a Deed of Settlement before proceeding with any development of residential stands.
Zimbabwean authorities have a notoriety of evicting villagers from their ancestral lands to make way for development projects. Corrupt officials eager to line their pockets are accused of defying the laws in the process.
– CAJ News