World Bulletin/News Desk
A Zimbabwean court on Monday suspended the demolition of the homes of some 200 families in a case that some have linked to plans – backed by First Lady Grace Mugabe – to set up a game park in the area.
High Court of Zimbabwe Justice Erica Ndewere ordered a temporary reprieve during an urgent chamber application by Mazowe villagers to stop the demolition of their homes.
"We are happy that the court vindicated our clients' position interdicting the police from demolishing homes and evicting people at Arnold Farm," Tonderai Bhatasara, a lawyer for the villagers, said following the ruling.
He voiced hope that the authorities would respect the ruling.
The state, which was represented by Tymon Tabana, refused to comment on the court ruling.
Bhatasara told The Anadolu Agency last week that he had filed contempt-of-court charges against the government for the latter's attempt to evict the families.
Last year, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an NGO, successfully challenged the eviction orders.
The High Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for any Zimbabwean to be evicted without the government first providing them with alternative housing.
The 200 families were resettled on the farm between 2000 and 2012.
It was around this time that the first lady began acquiring land in the area, where she has since built a home, school and orphanage. She also reportedly has a dairy farm in the area.
According to local media, a game park, too, is planned for the area once the evictions have been carried out.
The villagers welcomed the court decision and hoped the government would abide by it.
"Schools are opening tomorrow, so this ruling has brought relief, as villagers are now able to plan for their children," headman Enock Mushuwa told AA.
He described the situation on the farm as "dire," especially during the country's ongoing rainy season.
Aspinious Makufa, village chairperson, was no less happy about the court ruling.
"But I'm pessimistic that the first lady will respect the law. There was another court ruling earlier stopping the first lady from carrying out the eviction, but this was not honored," he told AA.
Makufa claimed that, when police came last week to evict them, they had said their orders had come from "the top."
"I can't mention the [name of the] female police officer, but she said she had to follow the first lady's orders," he told AA.
There has been no public reaction from the first lady regarding the issue, but state media has already begun distancing her from the evictions.Last Mod: 12 Ocak 2015, 21:17