A Harare High Court judge on Thursday ordered authorities to stop the demolition of houses in Epworth, outside Zimbabwe’s capital city saying the destruction of the properties violated the right to shelter which is enshrined in the country’s constitution.
Judge Nicholas Mathonsi ruled that authorities should first seek permission from the courts to demolish the houses before instituting any further demolitions.
He said although Zimbabwe does not have any legislation, unlike in South Africa and other countries, where citizens are protected from illegal evictions, the provisions of the new constitution protecting the fundamental rights of individuals will always override any other law until such time that the legislation has been put in place and aligned to the constitution.
The ruling follows an urgent application that was filed by some Epworth residents.
Tonderai Bhatasara, a member lawyer of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who represented the Epworth residents, confirmed the court order.
Bhatasara welcomed the court’s decision saying it re-affirmed provisions of the new charter.
One of the applicants, Peter Makani, said life has become difficult for him and other affected residents following the demolition of their houses about three weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Bhatasara said the court order is good news for Chitungwiza residents whose houses were also demolished by their municipality. Authorities argue that the houses they are demolishing were built on unauthorized land.
The application cited Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, the Prosecutor General and the Epworth Local Board as respondents.
The demolition of houses in Chitungwiza and Epworth left several people without shelter drawing condemnation from human rights organizations.