Lawyers, Residents Warn Govt Over Demolitions

Harare, May 9, 2014 – Human rights lawyers and a local residents’ pressure group on Friday warned the government to stop loading the country’s courts with avoidable litigation through carrying out illegal evictions of people and demolishing their houses.

Attorneys from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and leaders of Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) made the warning on Friday after Chitungwiza Provincial Magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa delivered a landmark ruling interdicting the Chitungwiza Municipality and Glory to Glory Housing Cooperative from demolishing some residents’ houses.

Gofa recently granted an application filed by four Chitungwiza residents seeking to interdict Chitungwiza Municipality and Glory to Glory Housing Cooperative from razing down their houses without notice and without a valid court order.

The Chitungwiza residents who were represented by ZLHR member lawyer, Marufu Mandevere, petitioned the court after Chitungwiza Municipality and Glory to Glory Housing Cooperative had rolled out front end loaders last year with the intention to demolish their houses.

Gofa ruled that the inception of Section 76 of the new Constitution outlaws the actions of the urban council and local authorities who have illegally threatened to evict and demolish people’s properties and therefore no law should be ultra vires the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.

In granting the interdict, Gofa stopped the Chitungwiza Municipality and Glory to Glory Housing Cooperative from infringing on the residents’ right from arbitrary eviction or demolition of their houses without a valid court order as envisaged in Section 74 of the new Constitution.

“We urge the local authorities and the government to desist from burdening courts and wasting resources through committing illegal actions. Instead, the government should focus on addressing the long term solution to the country’s housing crisis. There has to be a long term solution to the housing crisis. There is need for all stakeholders to sit down and discuss solution to solving the housing crisis without the government issuing out the threats and ad hoc measures,” reads part of a statement issued by ZLHR and Chitrest at a joint media briefing held Friday.

ZLHR lawyers Dzimbabwe Chimbga and Marufu Mandevere and the Chitrest representatives said they remained concerned that, in continuing to threaten to evict people and demolish people’s houses, the local authorities and the government will not only violate the Constitution, but impair the rule of law.

“The local authorities and the government must follow the procedures for eviction as set out in the new Constitution as well as the relevant statutory and common law principles against unlawful evictions and demolitions,” ZLHR and Chitrest said.

Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo recently issued threats to evict and demolish houses in Chitungwiza, about 25 kilometres outside Harare and in Seke rural areas.

But the planned evictions and demolitions have been condemned as illegal and inhumane.