By Maxwell Sibanda
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has been condemned for its continued harassment of families at Arnold Farm in Mazowe in Mashonaland Central, whose homes are being callously destroyed in a bid to evict them without alternative shelter.
This is despite a consent order by High Court Judge Justice on March 24 that barred and interdicted Lands and Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo and (ZRP) Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri from harassing the villagers at Arnold Farm by demolishing their houses or purporting to evict them without a court order or alternatively without issuing them with offer letters in respect of other land for them to occupy.
Last week, the police descended on the villagers again and destroyed several homes.
The evictions are meant to pave way for the First Family with government officials saying they needed the land to establish a game sanctuary. The first family has several other properties within the vicinity where they are farming and they have also established a state-of-the-art orphanage complete with a school.
In 2015, homes were also demolished and over 700 villagers evicted from the nearby Manzou Farm, again allegedly to pave way for the first family business. The villagers were later resettled at Rushinga, Lazy and Blagdon farms in Concession before they took legal action and got a High Court reprieve to stay at the property until they had been allocated an alternative piece of land to settle.
As of now most of the 143 homes on at Arnold Farm have already been razed to the ground.
The villagers had said in their affidavits that residents were driven some 35-40km along the Mvurwi Road, dumped in the bush and told to find their way to where they originally came from. “The villagers are just dumped in the open, without food, water, or shelter. Our crops and livestock are left at Arnold Farm; our children are still at the schools they were attending since 2000 when we resettled at the farm and now their education is being disrupted.”
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Okay Machisa said it is sad that ZRP had resumed its brutal tactics of evicting the villagers through force, assaulting and coercing them in disregard of a court order against the actions.
“The evictions violate human rights and this is a serious abrogation of the rule of law, accountability, constitutionalism and democracy in the country. The police have also reportedly given an unlawful ultimatum for the villagers to vacate the area.”
Machisa said the fact that the police, who are supposed to uphold the Constitution and the rulings of the courts, are at the forefront of violating them is a travesty of justice.
“ZimRights calls upon the police to respect the Constitution, which expressly outlaws arbitrary eviction of people without a court order, and stop such denial of the right to shelter and destruction of property.
“There is a big danger to the fundamental right of many people to own land that is directly being posed by the amassing of land by political elites in the area, which flies in the face of social justice, non-discrimination and equality,” said Machisa.
Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga said the tragic plight of the people of Arnold Farm is a serious indictment of the police about the absence of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
“With a valid court order, the police must have immediately stepped in to prevent demolitions and evictions, but as has become the norm, the police behave as if they are above the law and act with arrogant impunity.
“The human rights abuses taking place at Arnold Farm are shameful; the MP for the area Fortune Chasi must rise to the occasion and defend the rights of the homeless.”
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said Zimbabwe is a lawless country. “In this country, might is right. The politically powerful always have their way. Zanu PF is a terrorist organisation and its leaders are above the law.
“The ZRP is just but an armed militia of the Zanu PF regime. There is no rule of law. Robert Mugabe and his cronies are above the law; they are a law unto themselves.”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said we are now a police state. “The police are above the written law. Their law is Mugabe and Grace. That is their de facto law. All other laws, court orders, are gobbledygook.
“If they were not the law, we could have known what happened to (Itai) Dzamara and other fallen activists. Zanu PF regime is a government for itself, backed by a pugnacious, anarchistic and scallywag police force. “They don’t care about poor people. They don’t care about rights of the people. It is the same force that assaults peaceful demonstrators. The same force that superintended demolitions of people’s houses in May 2005 during Operation Murambatsvina. They don’t care.”
Mining activist Farai Maguwu said ZRP has long lost their constitutional mandate of preserving law and order and instead they are now an extension of Zanu PF from where they receive orders.
“It is very worrying when you see a once-disciplined police force being reduced to vicious thugs that trample every democratic right in the very Constitution they swear to uphold. This is a reminder of how much we have backslidden in terms of the rule of law. However these must be documented and at the right time people shall be held accountable.”
Political commentator Macdonald Lewanika said what has happened at Arnold Farm is a clear case of partisan, partial and illegal policing, all in the interests of the powerful and outside the remits of formal law and order.
“It shows that the police care not for the law they are supposed to enforce as stated in the Constitution and interpreted by the courts.
“The fate of families affected lies at the mercy of nature and its hazards, unfortunately this is not enough to prick the conscience of the powerful and a captured, partisan and unprofessional police force.” Daily News