Court blocks construction of a church on wetland

HIGH Court Judge Justice Webster Chinamora has ordered a property developer to stop construction of a church on a wetland in Harare following objections by some environmental rights campaigners and some residents.

The interdict by Justice Chinamora which was issued on Wednesday 11 December 2019 came after Harare Wetlands Trust (HWT) and Newlands Residents Association (NRA) filed an application in the High Court on Friday 26 April 2019 seeking an order to declare as unlawful the construction of a church building by New Life Covenant Church (NLCC) in Harare’s Newlands suburb for failing to comply with the requirements to developing on any land in City of Harare.

Through their lawyer Advocate Fadzayi Mahere, who was instructed by Fiona Iliff of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, HWT and NRA argued that the degradation and pollution that the construction of a church building will cause to City of Harare’s natural water resources violates their rights including those of their beneficiaries’ and the public’s environmental rights to a healthy environment as protected in Section 4 of the Environmental Management Act and Section 73(1) of the
Constitution as well as their right to safe, clean and potable water
provided in Section 77 of the Constitution.
In court, NLCC opposed HWT and NRA’s application arguing that it had obtained the necessary development permit allowing it to carry out construction work.

However, Justice Chinamora on Wednesday 11 December 2019 declared the construction of a church by NLCC on a wetland as unlawful and ordered NLCC to cease all developments on the wetland and remove all machinery until it has satisfied the requirements of the law.

The Newlands wetland is the latest to be saved by ZLHR after the human rights organisation intervened on several occasions to prevent
unlawful developments on wetlands, which are important ecosystems and a critical source of water.