High Court halts Chipinge Rural District Council’s expropriation of communal lands


MUTARE – The High Court issued an interdict against the Chipinge Rural District Council (CRDC), preventing the local authority from transforming Maunganidze Communal Lands into residential areas without due process, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said on Thursday.

MUTARE high Court stops chipinge Rural District Council from expropriating Maunganidze Communal Lands
Mutare High Court 

According to a post by ZLHR on X, formerly known as Twitter, Judge Isaac Muzenda of the Mutare High Court granted the order on Monday, prohibiting the CRDC from further development activities within the Maunganidze Communal Lands located under Chief Mutema in Chipinge.

“We have stopped Chipinge Rural District Council (CRDC) from expropriating communal land belonging to some villagers by obtaining a court order interdicting the local authority from urbanising Maunganidze Communal Lands without following due process,” ZLHR said.

The CRDC had Initiated an urbanisation process in the communal lands in late November, leading the local villagers to seek legal assistance from ZLHR. In response, ZLHR filed an urgent application at the Mutare High Court on December 8, challenging the CRDC’s actions as arbitrary, illegal, and unconstitutional.

The villagers, who view the Maunganidze Communal Lands as ancestral territory, expressed their grievances over the CRDC’s urbanisation process, which had begun without comprehensive consultation.

They voiced concerns about the uncertainty of their land tenure post-urbanisation, the accommodation of their individual developments on the land, and their survival in an urban environment given their reliance on subsistence farming.

ZLHR lawyers informed the court that the CRDC had deployed excavators into the villagers’ fields on November 27, where local authority officials began marking residential stands and constructing roads. 

The lawyers said the villagers were particularly distressed as this occurred on the brink of the rainy season, a crucial period for their farming activities.

The application argued that the CRDC’s actions were arbitrary, unconstitutional, and infringed upon the villagers’ constitutional right to property as enshrined in section 72 of the Constitution, as well as the rights to be heard and to be informed of decisions affecting them.

In his ruling, Justice Muzenda ordered the CRDC to cease interference with the villagers’ livelihoods by suspending the urbanisation process in Maunganidze Communal Lands.

He instructed the CRDC to engage with the villagers and reach a mutual agreement before proceeding with any residential development. 

The judge also ordered the CRDC to file a Deed of Settlement prior to any further development.

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