Villagers want minister and police chief arrested over Grace Mugabe evictions
By Blessing Zulu
Some Mazowe villagers at Arnold Farm in Mazowe District, Mashonaland Central province, whose dwellings were recently demolished by police, petitioned the High Court on Friday seeking an order for the arrest and imprisonment of Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri for disobeying a lawful court order.
The Villagers told Studio 7 they are being evicted to pave way for First Lady Grace Mugabe, who already owns a nearby farm. But after a barrage of criticism from Zimbabweans, Mashonaland West Governor, Martin Dinha, told the State controlled Herald newspaper that the first family has no intentions of taking over the farm.
Dinha said the area was not for human habitation and the province was making efforts to restore it to its former status as a national heritage site.
Dinha said the evictions have nothing to do with Mrs. Mugabe. “It has got nothing to do with the first family at all. This business of abusing the name of the first lady, her privacy and integrity must come to an end. Zimbabwe is not a banana republic as wished by some people and we have not deteriorated to that level of lawlessness and anarchy.”
MRS. MUGABE’S WORKERS
But one villager told VOA Studio 7 that Mrs. Mugabe’s workers have already moved into the farmhouse left by the previous home owner.
Zimbabweans are accusing the police and the first family of breaching Section 74 of the new constitution which states that: “no person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.”
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai also took a swipe at the first lady, saying it was clear that she was insensitive to the plight of the poor. “It is a disgrace really. You cannot have that. Zanu PF has survived on chaos and impunity. This is a typical testimony of insensitivity, at this hour when rains are pouring and you start instituting those measures.”
In a press statement, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the five Mazowe families whose houses were demolished by armed police officers, who stormed Arnold Farm in Mazowe beginning Wednesday in a “ruthless eviction that saw the villagers’ personal possessions being burnt filed a court application for contempt of court against Mohadi, Chihuri and Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora.”
DISOBEYING COURT ORDER
The villagers, who include Aspinas Makufa, Daaisi Musekiwa, George Musa, Costa Chirimba, and Gift Chikowore, charged that the government officials were “unquestionably guilty of contempt of court after intentionally disobeying a court order by demolishing their homes and attempting to evict them from Arnold Farm in Mazowe from which they have been conducting farming operations for more than a decade.”
In an application filed in the High Court by their lawyers Tonderai Bhatasara of Mupanga Bhatasara Attorneys and Gift Mtisi of Musendekwa Mtisi Legal Practitioners, who are all members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the lawyers want the High Court to order Mohadi, Chihuri and Mombeshora to stop government officials, agents, police officers or anyone acting on their instructions from demolishing and evicting the villagers from Arnold Farm.
Bhatasara told VOA plans to engage the police and avoid court action had failed as police refused to co-operate.
In their papers, the lawyers said should Mohadi, Chihuri and Mombeshora fail to stop government agents from ending the harassment of the villagers, “the Sheriff of Zimbabwe must procure several Zimbabwe Republic Police officers to arrest the Home Affairs Minister, the ZRP boss and the Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister and imprison them at Harare Central Prison until such a time they purge their contempt.”
According to the Mazowe families, Mohadi, Chihuri and Mombeshora’s conduct is “reprehensible and a risk to the administration of justice while the deliberate disobedience of a court order by public officials undermines the authority and integrity of the judiciary.”
The villagers said they are now exposed to the “vagaries of weather conditions with their crops and source of livelihood being razed to the ground at a time when their children are scheduled to start attending school lessons next week.”
The applicants argued that since the granting of the court order in August 2014 interdicting and stopping respondents from demolishing homes and evicting them, police officers ceased to destroy their property.
But the law enforcement agents recently resumed the house demolitions inspite of a court order granted by High Court Judge Justice Charles Hungwe in August 2014 interdicting the respondents from interfering with the Mazowe villagers’ farming activities on Arnold Farm until they have been legally relocated to other lands with valid offer letters.
ZLHR says six other families from Arnold Farm in Mazowe also filed an urgent chamber application on Friday in the High Court seeking an order interdicting Mohadi, Chihuri and Mombeshora from demolishing their houses and property or evicting them from the Mazowe farm. VOA