By Staff Reporter
A total of 800 families from Norton have been saved from eviction by the High Court which recently issued an order blocking government officials who claimed to have been sent by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
High Court Judge Justice Rogers Manyangadze on Wednesday stopped the eviction of the 800 families, who are former workers at Skea Farm.
The families had successfully challenged a directive for their eviction issued by the government through their lawyer, Rutendo Muchenje from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
The background giving rise to the ruling is that the government had on 11 January 2024 through officials from the Ministry of Lands, and the District Administrator for Chegutu, who were accompanied by some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers and officials from the Environmental Management Agency, visited Plot Number 46 at Skea Farm, where they convened a meeting and advised the former farm workers and their families to vacate from the farm within three days.
“The officials from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development and the District Administrator for Chegutu reportedly read a message from their mobile phone handsets indicating that they had been sent to deliver a message from President Emmerson Mnangagwa,” read court papers.
The court heard the farm was once owned by Martin Skea, a white commercial farmer before the farm was acquired by the government during the land grab exercise.
Faced with eviction, they engaged Muchenje of ZLHR.
Muchenje on 15 January this year filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court, seeking to interdict Lands Minister Anxious Masuka, the District Administrator for Chegutu and the Officer Commanding ZRP Norton District from evicting her clients and also to stop them from demolishing their houses.
In the application, the former farm employees represented by Charles Kungayi, Joshua Kazukamwe, Elias Mandiwanzira, Melody Mbawa, Betty Chapendeka and Patrick Pawandiwa, argued that they were allocated houses by Martin Skea, their erstwhile employer as company accommodation when they were farm workers at the farm and had been in undisturbed possession of the houses to date.
As former employees, they argued that they lived in the company houses located at the farm compound together with other employees.
They also argued that the Ministry of Lands Fisheries, Water and Rural Development was aware that they were residing at the farm compound.
Muchenje argued that the former farm workers had been “paying dues and rates to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development and the District Administrator for Chegutu on an annual basis and the District Administrator for Chegutu and had been accepting the rates, which they have been paying, estimated at US$3 per hectare.”
The former farm employees, who are residents of Ward 14 in Norton in Mashonaland West province, argued that officials sent to evict them did not serve them with a court order authorising their eviction.
“The actions of officials from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, the District Administrator for Chegutu in seeking to evict them, the former farm employees argued, are a violation of human rights and violate some provisions of the Constitution,” said their lawyer.
The former farm workers contended that they are old and do not have alternative accommodation hence they will be rendered homeless during the current rainy season.
Manyangadze concurred, ruling that it was illegal to evict people without a valid court order.