Zim Lawyers Challenge Fresh Wave Of House Demolitions

Harare, September 10, 2014 – A Zimbabwean court will on Tuesday make a determination on a court challenge mounted by the country’s leading legal defence group, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) seeking to stop ongoing house demolitions in the troubled southern African country.

In a statement ZLHR said High Court Judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi will on Tuesday hear an urgent chamber application filed by the organisation’s lawyers on behalf of some Epworth residents seeking to interdict the Epworth Local Board and the Zimbabwe Republic Police from demolishing housing structures.

The Epworth residents, who are represented by ZLHR through its member lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara of Mupanga Bhatasara Attorneys, filed an urgent chamber application on Monday 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 week 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.

With regard to the demolitions in Chitungwiza, ZLHR through its member lawyer Kudzai Kadzere of Kadzere, Hungwe and Mandevere Legal Practitioners, filed an urgent chamber application on Tuesday on behalf of Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) in the High Court seeking an order barring Chitungwiza Municipality from demolishing residents’ houses without a court order. 

In the application, Chitrest argued that the actions of local authorities in demolishing and evicting houses is a violation of Section 74 of the new Constitution which provides that “no person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished without an order of court made considering all the relevant circumstances.” The matter is yet to be set down for hearing. 

The fresh demolitions which come eight years after Zimbabwe attracted international condemnation after bulldozing houses and informal trading stalls in 2008 has already been condemned by Amnesty International which said forced evictions were prohibited under international law.

The 2005 house demolitions dubbed Operation Murambatsvina left 700 000 people homeless and without livelihoods as a result of the demolition of their houses and their informal trading stalls.