Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Zimbabwe: 341 Families Get Ultimatum to Vacate Catholic-Owned Farm

MORE than 341 families living at a farm belonging to the Roman Catholic Church near Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison have been given an ultimatum to vacate the farm by Thursday this week after a five-year protracted legal wrangle with the church over occupation of the property.

The ultimatum follows a Supreme Court ruling, made available last week, allowing the appeal by the Jesuits to evict the families from the farm.

The eviction of the families from the farm they had occupied for the past 40 years is to pave way for the building of low-density houses as approved by Harare City Council.

Speaking for the court, Justice Paddington Garwe quashed a High Court decision to set aside an order awarded to the church to evict the families.

"In the circumstances, the appeal must succeed. It is accordingly ordered that the appeal is allowed with costs," said Justice Garwe.

The judgment set aside the High Court's decision of April last year and ordered that the award of November 8, 2004 should be registered as a judgment of the High Court.

Justice Garwe heard the appeal with Justices Misheck Cheda and Vernanda Ziyambi, who concurred with the ruling. The Jesuits had appealed against the High Court's decision stopping it from carrying out the evictions.

The legal dispute had been dragging on for more than five years.

In March last year, the High Court ordered the Roman Catholic not to evict the occupants, prompting the Jesuits to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The families should vacate the farm by Thursday this week or risk incurring the cost of ejection.
However, the families, whose hopes to remain at the farm had been shattered, say they have nowhere to go.

Some of the families said they had lived at the farm since 1930.

Addressing the residents at the farm over the weekend, Zanu-PF Harare Province deputy secretary for lands Cde Noah Mangondo said it was a sad development given that the families are set to vacate a place they had called home.

The Roman Catholic Church authorised the stay of some of the families when it acquired the property in 1902. Cde Mangondo said they were concerned about the welfare of the families.

Cde Mangondo said meetings with representatives of the church and the Governor of Mashonaland East Cde Ray Kaukonde would be held to determine future of the families.

"As a party, we are concerned about the welfare of the people and we have approached Cde Ray Kaukonde over the issue," he said.

Cde Mangondo said Government would intervene as a peacemaker. The families, some of whom had built houses worth billions of dollars and drilled boreholes, are set to vacate without compensation.

Ms Sarah Chidoti said that she had lived at the farm for more than 50 years.

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