By Bernard Chiketo
The High Court in Mutare will today hear a case in which Chisumbanje villagers have dragged Green Fuel to court over about 500 hectares of cotton and maize fields the ethanol producer has allegedly arbitrarily annexed for its sugarcane fields expansion.
Passmore Nyakureba of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) — who are representing the villagers — said of the development: “Our request to have the matter heard on an urgent basis has been granted and the matter has been set down for hearing at the High Court tomorrow (today).”
Magokova villagers under Chief Garahwa claim that they were never informed of any change in the use of their ancestral lands from communal and maintain that the ethanol producer was stealing their land and using armed guards and dogs.
Green Fuel took over the land early this month and the move has deprived over 140 villagers of access to the land, which they use to grow cotton as their sole cash crop and maize for subsistence purposes.
Nyakureba and his ZLHR counterpart, Blessing Nyamaropa, on behalf of the villagers, have filed the application at the High Court in Mutare on Monday.
The villagers say that have had use of the land from colonial times and before 1983 or they inherited it within that system and now were being barred from tilling their fields, tending their germinated crops or from total access at all.
They claim that Green Fuel — through its officer only identified as Merit — had set armed security guards and dogs to ward them off.
Farming is the only economic activity that sustains their livelihoods.
To the best of their knowledge, they believe the company has neither secured a court order barring them from accessing their fields nor has the use of land been changed from communal to commercial by the responsible authority as they have not been informed of any such processes.
As such, they consider this an arbitrary violation of their constitutionally-guaranteed rights.
The villagers argue that about 3 000 individuals stand to suffer irreparable prejudice should the Green Fuel fail to allow villagers to continue with their agricultural activities as the farming season is already underway. Daily News