Maxwell Sibanda 10 April 2017
HARARE – The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has been condemned for its
continued harassment of families at Arnold Farm in Mazowe in Mashonaland
Central, whose homes are being callously destroyed in a bid to evict them
without alternative shelter.
This is despite a consent order by High Court Judge Justice on March 24
that barred and interdicted Lands and Resettlement minister Douglas
Mombeshora, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo and (ZRP)
Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri from harassing the villagers at
Arnold Farm by demolishing their houses or purporting to evict them
without a court order or alternatively without issuing them with offer
letters in respect of other land for them to occupy.
Last week, the police descended on the villagers again and destroyed
The evictions are meant to pave way for the First Family with government
officials saying they needed the land to establish a game sanctuary. The
first family has several other properties within the vicinity where they
are farming and they have also established a state-of-the-art orphanage
complete with a school.
In 2015, homes were also demolished and over 700 villagers evicted from
the nearby Manzou Farm, again allegedly to pave way for the first family
business. The villagers were later resettled at Rushinga, Lazy and Blagdon
farms in Concession before they took legal action and got a High Court
reprieve to stay at the property until they had been allocated an
alternative piece of land to settle.
As of now most of the 143 homes on at Arnold Farm have already been razed
to the ground.
The villagers had said in their affidavits that residents were driven some
35-40km along the Mvurwi Road, dumped in the bush and told to find their
way to where they originally came from. “The villagers are just dumped in
the open, without food, water, or shelter. Our crops and livestock are
left at Arnold Farm; our children are still at the schools they were
attending since 2000 when we resettled at the farm and now their education
is being disrupted.”
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Okay Machisa said
it is sad that ZRP had resumed its brutal tactics of evicting the
villagers through force, assaulting and coercing them in disregard of a
court order against the actions.
“The evictions violate human rights and this is a serious abrogation of
the rule of law, accountability, constitutionalism and democracy in the
country. The police have also reportedly given an unlawful ultimatum for
the villagers to vacate the area.”
Machisa said the fact that the police, who are supposed to uphold the
Constitution and the rulings of the courts, are at the forefront of
violating them is a travesty of justice.
“ZimRights calls upon the police to respect the Constitution, which
expressly outlaws arbitrary eviction of people without a court order, and
stop such denial of the right to shelter and destruction of property.
“There is a big danger to the fundamental right of many people to own land
that is directly being posed by the amassing of land by political elites
in the area, which flies in the face of social justice, non-discrimination
and equality,” said Machisa.
Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga said the
tragic plight of the people of Arnold Farm is a serious indictment of the
police about the absence of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
“With a valid court order, the police must have immediately stepped in to
prevent demolitions and evictions, but as has become the norm, the police
behave as if they are above the law and act with arrogant impunity.
“The human rights abuses taking place at Arnold Farm are shameful; the MP
for the area Fortune Chasi must rise to the occasion and defend the rights
of the homeless.”
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said Zimbabwe is a lawless country. “In this
country, might is right. The politically powerful always have their way.
Zanu PF is a terrorist organisation and its leaders are above the law.
“The ZRP is just but an armed militia of the Zanu PF regime. There is no
rule of law. Robert Mugabe and his cronies are above the law; they are a
law unto themselves.”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said we are now a police state. “The
police are above the written law. Their law is Mugabe and Grace. That is
their de facto law. All other laws, court orders, are gobbledygook.
“If they were not the law, we could have known what happened to (Itai)
Dzamara and other fallen activists. Zanu PF regime is a government for
itself, backed by a pugnacious, anarchistic and scallywag police force.
“They don’t care about poor people. They don’t care about rights of the
people. It is the same force that assaults peaceful demonstrators. The
same force that superintended demolitions of people’s houses in May 2005
during Operation Murambatsvina. They don’t care.”
Mining activist Farai Maguwu said ZRP has long lost their constitutional
mandate of preserving law and order and instead they are now an extension
of Zanu PF from where they receive orders.
“It is very worrying when you see a once-disciplined police force being
reduced to vicious thugs that trample every democratic right in the very
Constitution they swear to uphold. This is a reminder of how much we have
backslidden in terms of the rule of law. However these must be documented
and at the right time people shall be held accountable.”
Political commentator Macdonald Lewanika said what has happened at Arnold
Farm is a clear case of partisan, partial and illegal policing, all in the
interests of the powerful and outside the remits of formal law and order.
“It shows that the police care not for the law they are supposed to
enforce as stated in the Constitution and interpreted by the courts.
“The fate of families affected lies at the mercy of nature and its
hazards, unfortunately this is not enough to prick the conscience of the
powerful and a captured, partisan and unprofessional police force.”