New surge of evictions in Zimbabwe


Mushandike children pushed out of school by government's controversial policies of evicting villagers from their land

from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Bureau
HARARE, (CAJ News) – A FRESH wave of eviction of villagers from their lands is sweeping through Zimbabwe.

The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) government is accused of spearheading the evictions, leaving villagers distressed.

The latest have been reported in the provinces of Manicaland and Masvingo.

In Masvingo, Phillip Shumba of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has filed an appeal at the local Magistrates Court on behalf of the villagers, seeking to suspend an order for their eviction from their land.

The villagers were last Wednesday convicted of occupying gazetted land without lawful authority as defined in the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act.

Magistrate Ivy Jawona sentenced them to serve three months in prison, which was wholly suspended.

In addition, Magistrate Jawona ordered the villagers to vacate their land within seven days.

In the appeal, filed at Masvingo High Court last Friday, the villagers argued that Magistrate Jawona erred and misdirected herself in convicting and sentencing them to serve jail terms for illegally occupying gazetted land as some of them have been in occupation of their land for more than 40 years and had effected tremendous improvements to their land.

The villagers want the High Court to overturn their conviction and set aside their sentence and refer their matter to the Constitutional Court for a determination of the constitutionality of their eviction.

In Chipinge in Manicaland province, Tariro Tazvitya also of ZLHR is representing 327 villagers who are accused of illegally occupying Mahachi village.

Of the villagers, 80 of them are accused of illegally occupying Munyokowere village.

The villagers were brought to Chipinge Magistrates Court last weekend for their initial remand appearance.

They were set free after their lawyer made representations to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) arguing against putting them on remand on an incomplete docket as investigations by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers had not been complete.

Land is a sensitive issue in Zimbabwe. It fuelled the liberation war that led to independence in 1980.

In 2000 the government of then president, Robert Mugabe (now late) sanctioned the so-called land invasions, which would pave the way for land redistribution. However the exercise was fraught with cronyism.

In recent years, the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa is accused of evicting villagers to make way for projects to be run mostly by foreign businesspeople, mainly Chinese and those from oil rich Middle East countries at the expense of local people.

– CAJ News

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