BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
THE High Court yesterday ordered settlers who invaded businessman and Zanu PF Zvimba South MP Phillip Chiyangwa’s property, to vacate.
This was after Chiyangwa took 30 settlers, who invaded the farm and claimed ownership of the property to court, despite the fact that the farm was gazetted.
Last year, Chiyangwa won a similar case, which resulted in the settlers being thrown out of the farm. However, others continued to occupy the farm and allegedly damaged Chiyangwa’s property.
The settlers filed an urgent chamber application against Chiyangwa seeking an order interdicting him from interfering with their occupation.
They also accused him of buying police officers to ensure that they intimidated them, further stating that in fear of victimisation by the MP, they are staying in the mountains.
But High Court judge Justice Pisirayi Kwenda, in his ruling yesterday, said the invaders had come to Chiyangwa’s farm with dirty hands.
“In deciding this matter, I make the following findings: A person in occupation of gazetted land must give up occupation or use of such land voluntarily. Because the law commands him or her to do so, he or she has a lawful authority to remain in occupation or use the land. Similarly, no one may take occupation or use of gazetted land without lawful authority,” Justice Kwenda said.
The judge said anyone who remained in occupation of the land would be committing a crime.
“Applicants in this case are aware that the land they occupy was duly acquired by the State and gazetted. The gazetting and acquisition is within their knowledge. They do not have to wait to be evicted. The law requires them to give up occupation voluntarily. In my view, an order of this court protecting, by way of an interdict, unlawful conduct would have the effect of putting the applicants above the law. The application can, therefore, not succeed,” he said.
In the application by the settlers, Chiyangwa was cited as the first respondent.
Also cited as respondents in the application were the officer-in-charge at the Chinhoyi Rural Police Station, the officer-in-charge of the Chinhoyi CID (Central Investigations Department) offices, the officer commanding Mashonaland West and Lands minister Anxious Masuka.
The judge ruled that the other respondents could not be blamed over what happened to the occupants.
He said the police officers were only exercising their law enforcement duties, adding that it was the duty of the sheriff to evict them.
In her founding affidavit on behalf of other evictees, told the court tAbigail Dzepasihat commotion at the farm started on September 24 this year.
She alleged that Chiyangwa sent his manager, Tafadzwa Kwaramba, who was in the company of some police officers, to randomly attack and intimidate them to force them to leave.
She said the police moved from door-to-door opening people’s houses, searching and confiscating things like cash and other valuables.
On September 25, 2021, Dzepasi said those who were arrested were taken to the magistrate’s court at Chinhoyi where they were released on $2 000 bail over allegations of contravening section 3 of the Lands Act. She said some residents were injured during the commotion and could not seek medical attention at clinics or hospitals because police reports are a prerequisite.