Court stops Chimanimani farmers eviction

THE High Court has stopped the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) from evicting Chimanimani families, who were facing imminent displacement from their banana farms.

BY OBEY MANAYITI

The 27 families, represented by Passmore Nyakureba, approached the High Court in Mutare with a prayer to have the eviction stopped.

In her judgment, Justice Hlekani Mwayera interdicted ZimParks from executing its plan.

“The respondent and those acting in concert with it or under its instructions are interdicted from arbitrary evicting first – 27th applicants and families from Chikware and Mapombera villages, Chief Ngorima Chimanimani,” the ruling, that also ordered each of the parties to meet their costs, read.

Before the order, NewsDay Weekender was inundated with calls from the villagers who were alleging that their imminent removal had all to do with suspected gold deposits in the area.

“We are approaching the rainy season and this is the time that we are preparing our fields. Surprisingly, there are people moving around threatening to remove us. There is earth moving equipment that has come and we don’t know what to do now. This is unfair and we don’t have alternative areas to go to where we can sustain our lives. The government must intervene,” one of the villagers, who was blaming the local leadership for letting them down before the High Court order was granted, said.

Others said they had built houses and if they were to be demolished, it would be a loss they would not be able to recover.

“I stay in Vhimba area and we have seen people doing rounds in our area, and we were certain they wanted to prospect for gold. The unfortunate thing is that the community was not consulted; we were in the dark. I don’t know what we have done to deserve this.

“The government and the elected leadership must find ways to stop this madness. Had it not been for the court, we would be destitutes by now. We were going to lose our valuables to the rains. The whole community is living in fear and President Emmerson Mnangagwa must look into this issue,” another villager said.
Nyakureba applauded the interdict.

“It is good that our clients got the relief they needed as they were now living in fear of eviction from their homes and agriculture land. Things are tough in the country at the moment and to add such misery to the suffering is beyond the comprehension of any rational human being.”

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela), which moved in swiftly to have the villagers get representation, said they were excited that no villager was going to be moved.

“All I can say is that it was a call we could not resist to assist such a marginalised community, who faced arbitrary eviction contrary to what the Constitution says,” Darlington Chidharara from Zela said.

“The Supreme Court, in the last two weeks in another judgment, reiterated that, with no court order, one cannot legally evict people from their homes. As Zela, we believe that if there is a resource in any area, locals must benefit from that resource just as we have advocated everywhere we work, for example, Marange diamond fields or even at Mutoko black granite mining.

“We believe that ZimParks should engage the people of Vhimba so that they find a workable solution where locals benefit from the national parks activity just as what happened earlier this year with the Kanyemba people in Mbire. Evicting them was unfair, hence we are ready to assist parks to engage the people of Vhimba to find a workable solution which leaves everyone happy.”