BULAWAYO High Court has ordered the Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development minister Anxious Masuka and the Agriculture and Rural Development Authority (Arda) to stop interfering with 68 Mkwati villagers in Seabrough, Umguza in Matabeleland North province.

The villagers argue that Masuka and Arda were forcing them to relocate to “very bad rocky infertile land”.

This was after Masuka issued eviction notices to the villagers to pave way for Arda activities. As a result, the 68 villagers last week filed an urgent High Court chamber application seeking to bar the government from evicting them from the farm.

Mzingeli Dube and 67 others, represented by their lawyer Bruce Masamvu filed an application at the High Court last week on Monday citing Masuka and Arda as respondents in the matter.

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Christopher Dube-Banda ruled in favour of the villagers, saying they must have undisturbed and peaceful occupation of the farm.

“Applicants and those claiming possession through them are hereby declared to have peaceful and undisturbed possession of their respective pieces of land situated at Mkwati village Seabrough, Umguza,” Justice Dube-Banda ruled.

“The respondents and those claiming occupation through them are hereby ordered to return applicants’ status quo ante prior to this  spoliation such that applicants  are returned their  peaceful, quiet and undisturbed possession, occupation and use  of  land commonly  known as Mukwati village, Seabrough,Umguza.”

The applicants had submitted that their matter was extremely urgent and could not wait to be heard in a normal way because they continued to suffer irreparable

“The applicants have a prima facie right to be heard and to be given reasons for any decision which negatively affects them. Balance of convenience favours the granting of the application as there is no alternative relief to the order being sought. The applicants are in occupation of a certain piece of land, namely Mkwati village Seabrough, Umguza. Applicants were settled by the first respondent (minister) 20 years ago and were reassured that the land was not gazetted or leased,” the application read.

They said Masuka and Arda had interfered with their peaceful and undisturbed possession of the land by evicting them without lawful authority.

Source Newsday