The High Court in Zimbabwe has interdicted government authorities from harassing villagers at a farm that powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe wants to turn into a wildlife park.
Judge Justice Felistus Chatukuta ordered lands and resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora, Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo and police commissioner Augustine Chihuri to immediately stop demolishing villagers’ homesteads and evicting them.
Villagers enlisted the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) to file a court application to stop police brutality at Arnold Farm in Mazowe, Mashonaland Central Province. They have lived there for 17 years.
Government authorised them to settle at Arnold Farm in the year 2000, at the height of the violent government backed fast-track land reform programme.
Their woes started in 2015 when President Robert Mugabe’s discordant wife, who owns vast tracts of land, eyed the property to set up a game park.
Police have been forcing the villagers out in defiance of a court order given in 2015.
In the urgent chamber application, villagers bemoaned police actions while they had been rendered homeless and their children’s education jeopardised.
The court ruled that police officers and officials from the ministry of lands and rural resettlement contravened villagers’ rights from arbitrary eviction and rights to privacy, property and administrative justice.
This is the second time Zimbabwean authorities have been ordered by the High Court to stop harassing Mazowe villagers, demolishing homesteads and evicting them. Another plan to evict the villagers to pave way for the First Lady’s game park project was ruled illegal in 2015.
Mrs Mugabe, who is believed to have presidential ambitions, has also defied court orders to return properties she has forcibly taken over from a Lebanese businessman after a diamond ring deal went sour. African News Agency