Harare, October 08, 2014 – Some Epworth residents whose houses were demolished last month by some government authorities will have to wait a little bit longer before knowing their fate after High Court Judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi on Tuesday reserved judgment in a matter in which are seeking to stop the destruction of their properties.
Justice Mathonsi who heard arguments from the Epworth residents’ lawyer and the Epworth Local Board and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri’s legal practitioners indicated that he would endeavor to hand down his ruling on the application either on Thursday or Wednesday next week.
The Epworth residents, who are represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) through its member lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara of Mupanga Bhatasara Attorneys, filed an urgent chamber application last month seeking an order interdicting Epworth Local Board, Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and the Attorney General from demolishing houses belonging to some Epworth residents and to stop evicting them.
The decision to file the urgent chamber application came after the authorities last month launched an indiscriminate and arbitrary operation to destroy residents’ houses and evicting them from their properties on the basis that they had built some illegal structures on undesignated land.
But the Epworth residents through their lawyers petitioned the High Court seeking to put a stop to the demolitions and evictions from their homes without due process which they deemed illegal.
The residents argued that the demolitions violated several of their constitutional rights as provided in the country’s new Constitution and were illegal and unconstitutional as the authorities had not secured a court order.
The Epworth Local Board and Chihuri who opposed the urgent chamber application claimed that they never demolished any housing structures but only surveyed and allocated industrial stands to some deserving beneficiaries, an activity which allegedly incensed some Epworth residents who “stoned” and “injured” some police officers and some local authority personnel.
In 2005, a government backed operation code-named Operation Murambatsvina left 700 000 families without shelter a source of livelihood after their homes and informal trading stalls were demolished by the Zimbabwean authorities inspite of local, regional and international condemnation.