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No joy for under-siege villagers

News
GUTU resident magistrate Edwin Marecha yesterday ruled that a case where 22 villagers whose homes were last week razed by soldiers in a land ownership wrangle was not urgent.

GUTU resident magistrate Edwin Marecha yesterday ruled that a case where 22 villagers whose homes were last week razed by soldiers in a land ownership wrangle was not urgent.

By Tatenda Chitagu

Marecha postponed the case to July 8.

The villagers, from Chomufuli Farm in Gutu, had approached the courts seeking an interim order to stop soldiers from 4:2 Infantry Battalion army barracks at Mpandawana Growth Point from kicking them out of the farm. “The magistrate ruled that the case is not urgent. I respect his decision, he has his reasons for that. We have to wait until then,” the villagers’ lawyer Phillip Shumba said.

In their application, the villagers wanted Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi compelled to stop the attacks by the soldiers, which they claim started on June 11.

They also wanted the soldiers blocked from destroying their homes, harassing or threatening them with violence. Prior to the court application, the villagers — who were beneficiaries of the fast-track land reform programme in 2002 — petitioned the district lands officer, claiming the soldiers wanted to grab their plots.

The villagers say they have been camped in the bush since then and left behind their household property in the open and livestock unattended.

The victims said the soldiers had no court order to enforce the purported eviction. Their homes were torched at a time they were harvesting their crops.