HARARE – Villagers due to be evicted from Arnold Farm in Mazowe won an 11th-hour reprieve on Thursday after being granted an emergency injunction by the High Court restraining authorities from clearing their structures on the site.
The farmers are being evicted from Arnold Farm to pave way for First Lady Grace Mugabe’s takeover.
High Court judge Lavender Makoni on Thursday barred Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo, police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri and Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora together with their officials from assisting in the displacement of the Mazowe villagers.
“We entered into an order by consent, the respondents agreed to have the court issue an order,” the villagers’ lawyer, Moses Donsa Nkomo from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, told the Daily News.
“The order was that the ministry of Home Affairs, the police commissioner and the ministry of Lands should immediately stop assisting and participating in the illegal evictions of villagers at Arnold Farm.
“The court said people who were displaced should go back. This means that the ministry officials and officers will not be allowed to help whoever is behind the evictions.
“For those who lost property and whose houses were demolished, they are free to take legal action.”
Villagers at Arnold Farm had rushed back to court after the police “defied” a High Court ruling stopping their eviction.
The villagers were seeking an order for the police to be charged with contempt of court.
They also wanted the officers removed from the farm within two hours of the granting of the order and also sought the arrest of those acting against the court order.
This comes after High Court judge Felistas Chatukuta granted the order by consent after the residents — through their lawyer Nkomo — filed an application seeking to bar the police and Lands minister from evicting them from the farm.
However, the demolitions and evictions continued, prompting the residents to rush back to court, seeking to have the police declared to be in contempt of court.
“We also took a copy of the order with us when we went back to Arnold Farm and we found demolitions still in progress,” one of the residents Innocent Dube said in an affidavit.
“We showed the court order to the police officers who were carrying out the demolitions and they advised us that they take their orders from their superiors and not from us.”
He told the court the police forced the residents into their trucks and dumped them some 35-40km in the bush along the Mvurwi road.
“The villagers were just dumped in the open, without food, water or shelter. Our crops and livestock were 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,” Dube said.
He said the disobedience of the court order by the police is wilful, reckless and in bad faith.
According to the residents, they have been staying at the farm over the past 17 years, before heavily armed police officers and officials from the Lands ministry began demolishing their homes without a court order.
The villagers argued that the arbitrary eviction contravened their rights provided for in the Constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy, administrative justice and the right to property.