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Zimbabwe Court Stops Mazowe Farm Evictions

FILE - Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe's first lady, addresses a rally in Chinhoyi, about 120 kilometers west of Harare, Oct. 2, 2014.

A Harare High Court judge on Monday ordered the state to stop evicting Mazowe villagers being removed from their homes by police at the alleged instigation of First Lady Grace Mugabe.

High Court judge Erica Ndewere ordered the halting of evictions of villagers, who were resettled at Arnold Farm Number 10, also known as Manzou Farm.

Judge Ndewere ruled that the affected villagers should not be removed from their properties if no alternative places of residence have been availed by the state. Although state attorney Tymon Tabana argued that the state had offered alternative pieces of land, the court was not satisfied with that court submission, according to lawyers representing the villagers.

The villagers claim that the police were evicting them to pave way for the first lady, who reportedly wants to convert the farm into a game sanctuary and conduct other projects. Government officials have disputed this saying the farm is earmarked by the state for a game park.

One of the lawyers representing the affected villagers, Tonderai Bhatasara, welcomed the ruling, adding that he expects the government to abide by the court ruling.

Those cited in the urgent High Court chamber application are police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri, Lands Minister Douglas Mombeshora and Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi.

One of the affected people, Daaisi Musekiwa told Studio 7 that although he welcomes the interim relief, the situation at Manzou remained dire.

When the evictions started, some villagers at Manzou Farm alleged that Mrs. Mugabe wanted to take over the property to set up a wildlife sanctuary but Mashonaland Central provincial affairs minister Martin Dinha denied that the First Lady was involved.

Minister Dinha told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that villagers were settled on a farm that was set aside by the government as a heritage site.

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