High Court Bars Makoni RDC From Evicting Ex-Farm Workers

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By Kenneth Matimaire

THE Makoni Rural District Council (RDC) has been barred from evicting and demolishing homes of former farm workers in Nemaire village without a valid court order.

The interdict was granted by the High Court Tuesday through an urgent chamber application.

The five applicants filed the urgent application on August 2 against Makoni RDC.

The applicants were represented by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) while the respondent was represented by Chigadza and Associates legal practitioners.

Founding affidavits filed by the applicants, state they are erstwhile workers of Bingaguru Farm in Makoni, which became a subject of land resettlement directly affecting the five, including their families and livestock.

The court heard the villagers were later integrated and allocated plots by traditional leaders in 2011.

The court was further informed the Makoni RDC later partnered with the Sports Leaders Institute of Zimbabwe on February 5 2020 where the former availed land to the latter.

Challenges arose when the Sports Institute took occupation and started to establish structures on the site, including a fire guard followed by a notification of its intent to erect a boundary fence on July 5 2020.

Applicants then decided to file the application for an interdict eight days later as the boundary fence would block them from accessing perimeters of their homesteads, reads the founding affidavits.

However, in opposing papers, the Makoni RDC argued the matter was not urgent and the Sports Institute was supposed to be cited as a respondent.

The RDC further argued the applicants are not lawfully occupying the land as traditional leaders have no power to allocate land.

It further denies it intended to unlawfully remove the applicants from their residents and “contends that applicants’ fear of eviction is misplaced because to the respondent building fireguards is no indication of illegal invasions.”

However, in handing down the judgment High Court judge, Justice Isaac Muzenda noted the respondents admitted they hold a certain percentage in partnership with the Sports Institute.

“What the applicants are submitting is to the effect that whatever is to be intended to happen by respondent that affects the applicants should be done within the confinements of the law. By opposing the application for that cause is tantamount to arguing that the local authority and its partners can do whatever they want without the sanction of the law,” states Justice Muzenda.

“That is not acceptable at law at all. Assuming the applicants are illegal settlers as argued by the respondents, the law must take its course. As a result, both preliminary points have no footing in this case and are dismissed,” he added.

Justice Muzenda also prohibited the RDC from evicting the five applicants including those claiming occupation through them.

The local authority was further barred from threatening, harassing or demolishing any structures belonging to the applicant without a valid court order as the High Court dismissed the opposing papers with costs.