Masvingo villagers acquitted of illegal land occupation 

Source: Masvingo villagers acquitted of illegal land occupation – The Southern Eye

SIXTY-SIX Masvingo villagers who were arrested and charged with illegal occupation of State land were on Thursday acquitted of the charge by Magistrate Farai Gwatima.

 The villagers were arrested on January 22, 2024, by the police and charged with occupying gazetted land without lawful authority as defined in section 3(1) of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act.

According to a Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) report, the 66 villagers, who include some aged over 70, unlawfully held, used or occupied part of Great Zimbabwe University land which is deemed to be State land.

“The prosecutors, who stated that the complainant in the matter was Charity Mumera, the deputy director in the ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development, claimed that the villagers illegally occupied pieces of State land from 2000 to date in contravention of section 3(1) of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act,” ZLHR said.

“But the 66 villagers were on Thursday found not guilty and acquitted at the close of the prosecution case by Magistrate Gwitima, who ruled that prosecutors had failed to prove the existence of a Government Gazette entitling government to ownership of the pieces of the land allegedly occupied by the rural dwellers, which is an essential element of the alleged offence.”

The 66 villagers, who were out of custody on bail, were represented by Frank Chirairo of ZLHR.

They were initially charged with settling within a prohibited dam basin as defined in section 56(20) of the Water Act.

The charges were later amended to contravening section 3(1) of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act.