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12 000 Chilonga villagers face eviction after losing High Court battle

High Court judge Justice Martin Mafusire has dismissed an application by Chilonga villagers challenging government’s plans to evict more than 12 000 families from their ancestral land in Chiredzi to pave way for a lucerne grass project.

Through their lawyer Tendai Biti of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) the villagers challenged their impending eviction and Sections 4 and 6 of the Communal Lands Act, which vests rural land in the hands of the President.

They argued that the law was a colonial relic premised on a racist notion that an African could not own land.

ZLHR confirmed on Thursday the dismissal of the villagers’ application by Justice Mafusire.

“ZLHR Court Update: Our Chilonga Public Interest Case seeking to protect the rights of the indigenous Chilonga community who are on the verge of losing their land has been dismissed with no order as to costs by Justice Mafusire. We will share the reasons for the dismissal,” the lawyers said.

Chilonga villagers had argued that the Communal Lands Act was a racist and colonial creature which regarded Africans “as too uncivilised to own land.

ZLHR said the “villagers queried how an African can own a house in Harare’s plush suburb of Borrowdale but he cannot own his ancestral home in areas such as Chiredzi, Mwenezi, Dotito, Chendambuya, Nkayi or Tsholotsho.”

Chilonga Villagers pose for a photo with MDC Alliance leadership following their visit to the area
Chilonga Villagers pose for a photo with MDC Alliance leadership including Vice President Tendai Biti following their visit to the area

Opposition MDC Alliance officials led by their vice president Biti last year went to Chilonga for a fact finding mission.

Biti challenged the government to conduct a referendum before carrying out evictions.

“There was no consultation, the community is very clear they do not want to move. The government did not consult and we challenge the government to conduct a referendum there and the people will overwhelmingly vote against their eviction,” Biti said. Nehanda Radio

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