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100 Hwange villagers get back grazing land; council illegally awarded company to construct motor race course

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By Staff Reporter

Hwange villagers, who have been challenging expropriation of grazing land for construction of a Formula 1 motor racing course, heaved a sigh of relief after they got their land back after years of litigation.

Bulawayo High Court Judge, Justice Evangelista Kabasa, ruled that the decision by Hwange Rural District Council (RDC) to parcel out 500 hectares of grazing space was unlawful.

The villagers initiated court proceedings after their property was in 2018 awarded to a local company, Stelix Civils Pvt Ltd without consultation.

They approached the courts seeking a relief that the decision by Hwange RDC to grant a permit to Stelix Civils be set aside.

They also wanted the fence erected to secure the area removed within 48 hours of the court order.

Stelix Civils applied to RDC for the land for the purposes of developing an Formula 1 grade motor racing course, and in June 2018 the RDC passed a resolution that the company be allocated land for the requested project noting that the Village Assembly and Ward Development Committee were supportive of the idea.

An area covering 500 hectares used as grazing area for livestock from Chibode, Kachecheti and Nemanaga wards used was subsequently fenced off.

Disgruntled villagers then engaged lawyers who filed a court challenge.

Villagers argued the RDC acted unlawfully and unfairly.

They complained that the RDC did not notify of their right to review the decision.

While opposing the application, Stelix argued that the application for review by the villagers was fatally defective for failure to comply with High Court rules as it was filed out of time.

They also argued that Mthembisi Moyo, who deposed an affidavit on behalf of other 99 villagers, had no locus standi to do so.

However, after hearing arguments by both parties the presiding judge averred the villagers had made a case for the relief they sought.

“The effect of this order allows the RDC to follow the law…this was ought to be done before any land is apportioned to Stelix.

“The decision of the RDC to grant Stelix Civils permission for the construction of a racecourse be and is hereby set aside.

“Any actions or conduct that had been taken by the RDC following the granting of the lease agreement is hereby declared invalid,” ruled the judge.