HARARE – Villagers at Arnold Farm in Mazowe have rushed back to court after the police “defied” a High Court ruling stopping their eviction.
The contempt hearing has been set down for tomorrow.
The villagers, who are reportedly being evicted to make way for the expansion of First Lady Grace Mugabe’s business empire, are now seeking an order for the police to be charged with contempt of court.
They also want the officers removed from the farm within two hours of the granting of the order.
They 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 Moses Donsa Nkomo from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) — filed an application seeking to bar the police and Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora 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. 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,” one of the residents Innocent Dube said in an affidavit.
He told the court that the police forced the residents into their trucks and dumped them some 35-40 kilometres 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 that the disobedience of the court order by the police is wilful, reckless and in bad faith.
“It is clear and goes without saying that by having the police continue to demolish and destroy our homes and property and to forcibly remove the residents and to dump them in the bush, respondents failed to comply with the court order,” Dube said.
“The conduct of the respondents in this case is a sad commentary to the status of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
“As applicants, we had hoped to get relief from this honourable court but when the orders of the court are brazenly disobeyed, as in this case, then there is no hope left for us.”
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.