12,000 Chilonga villagers face eviction after losing court battle
HARARE – Nearly 12,000 Chilonga villagers are now at risk of displacement from their ancestral lands after the High Court rejected their challenge to a government plan to uproot them to make way for an alfalfa farm.
Lawyers for the villagers challenged the âcolonialâ legislation used by the government to enforce the evictions.
Harare High Court Judge Joseph Mafusire said he was not convinced that the sections of the Communal Lands Act were unconstitutional.
âThe law may have an odious and racist lineage, but at independence in 1890 and beyond to the present day, the government, in its infinite wisdom, decided to keep the Tribal Trust Land Act intact, albeit under a new title, âsaid the judge.
âHe decided to leave the concept of attribution of communal lands to the President of the State intact. It was a political decision. The respondents explained why this was so. The applicants reject this argument. But I think that without some sort of commission of inquiry into the whole land reform, especially with regard to communal land, this tribunal might not be sufficiently qualified to provide a sound solution to the issue of private property. of communal lands.
Judge Mafusire said it was not an unreasonable fear that the granting of the title flames to users and occupants of communal land can have undesirable consequences.
He added: âFor example, foreign land barons can end up owning large tracts of communal land. This can disrupt the customary way of life ordered in these territories. If there are any safeguards that can be put in place, like what the candidates say happened in Kenya and Uganda, I just don’t have enough information and knowledge about what they are. .
âA holistic approach to the matter is required instead of providing a haphazard remedy under a constitutional decree. “
The villagers of Chilonga wanted the High Court to strike down Articles 4 and 6 (1) (b) of the Communal Lands Act, arguing that both articles are unconstitutional and violate certain provisions of the constitution.
The judge disagreed.
âThe application cannot be successful. However, I do not agree with the respondents’ assertion that it was frivolous and vexatious. It was a public interest dispute. Such types of challenges could actually annoy the courts in the future. Therefore, in dismissing the complaint, it is only fair that each party bears its own costs. The complaint is hereby dismissed but without an order for costs, âhe said.
On February 26, 2021, the Minister of Local Government released Statutory Instrument (SI) 50 of 2021 which has the effect of annexing 12,940 hectares of communal land to Chilonga, resulting in the eviction of thousands of residents.
The land is handed over to the private company Dendairy, which says it wants to grow alfalfa, a perennial flowering plant used as fodder for animals, including cattle, sheep, goats and chickens.
Zimbabwe’s human rights lawyers, who have mandated human rights lawyer Tendai Biti, said they would review the judgment and decide whether it is open to appeal.