CHITUNGWIZA - Magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa yesterday granted an interdict staying the demolition of houses the municipality said were built on undesignated sites.
The magistrate ruled that council should abide by Section 74 of the new Constitution which states that no person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.
Gofa said, “no law should be ultra vires this Constitution” and council should have followed due process if it intends to demolish residents’ houses.
The court’s ruling flies in the face of Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo’s three-week ultimatum to residents to demolish houses built on undesignated sites. The directive issued was due to expire next week.
Chombo had rubbished residents’ pleas for government to adhere to the laws of the country saying going to court over such a matter was futile.
Marufu Mandevere of Kadzere, Hungwe and Mandevere Legal Practitioners, appearing on behalf of Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest), said the courts had reaffirmed the position of the law in terms of Section 74 of the supreme law.
“The Court order granted today is a victory for all believers in the rule of law and constitutionalism. Since the promulgation of the new constitution we have seen an active willingness by government authorities to openly defy section 74 which prohibits the demolitions without a court order. The authorities have been reluctant to approach the courts and consequently have no legal right to demolish the structures in question. It therefore means no demolitions may take place unless authorised by the court,” Mandevere said.
Asked about the effect of Gofa’s ruling given that Chombo had already issued an ultimatum to residents to demolish “illegal” houses, the human rights lawyer said: “The directive by Chombo becomes unlawful since the position at law has been stated by the court.
“If Chombo pursues the matter, we will take him on, but I need to state that it will be just procedural. We will win.”
“The court has taken a good stance to show that there is separation of powers,” Mandevere told the Daily News.
Chitrest treasurer Brighton Mazhindu welcomed the ruling.
“We implore the municipality to respect human rights issues and also to regularise the affected houses in order to widen its revenue base,” Mazhindu said.
Chamber secretary Priccilar Vengesai said council would abide by the court’s ruling and would follow the procedures required at law in pursuance of the case.
Council had embarked on a demolition exercise of houses “constructed illegally” on wetlands, power line servitudes and on top of sewer pipes after the parent ministry in November 2013 constituted a team of commissioners to investigate illegal land deals in Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural District Council.
However, the report makes a scathing attack on government and responsible ministries for their laxity in putting checks and balances on the operations of cooperatives “which has resulted in the cooperatives working in cahoots with government in fulfilling the land aggrandisement activities.”
It specifically named for prosecution “Councillor F Mabamba (United We Stand Housing Cooperative), Bonface Manyonganise (Yemurai Disabled Cooperative), Mrs Manyana (Chitungwiza Ruvimbo Housing Cooperative), Makuchete (Key College), Major T Marufu, youths led by Hamandishe and Honourable MP Chigumba”, allegations which the six deny.
Residents paid a total of nearly $30 million to the land barons to acquire the illegal stands, said the report.