THE Messenger of Court, assisted by the police last week evicted 12 families from Cyrene Farm in Figtree which is owned by the Anglican Province of Central Africa Church in the Diocese of Matabeleland.
BY SILAS NKALA
Over 500 illegal settlers had invaded Cyrene Farm since 2003. The church’s efforts to evict them hit a snag despite the High Court granting it an eviction order in 2003.
Of late, the farm had been hit by new invasions, prompting the church to seek the reinstatement of the High Court order against the settlers.
The settlers were given seven days to vacate the farm by the High Court or be forcibly evicted, but they did not heed the call.
In August, the Messenger of Court with the assistance of police evicted 11 families and on Tuesday, an additional 12 families were evicted and their properties were dumped along the Plumtree-Bulawayo Highway, bringing the total evictions to 23.
The church officials expressed concern that the settlers returned to their illegal shelters soon after the evictions.
“I think the problem is that the court order does not prescribe demolition of the illegal settlements. They only remove household property and the challenge is that they go back afterwards to their illegal shelters,” said a church official who preferred anonymity.
The settlers started occupying the farm in 2000 at the height of the land reform programme and there has been a new wave of illegal occupations at the farm.
Farm workers and church officials said of late the settlers have been committing crimes such as vandalising of fencing materials, destruction of vegetation, gold panning and stock theft.
They recently appealed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to intervene and stop what they described as lawlessness and wanton illegal occupation of Cyrene Farm.
Recently, the Diocesan trustees, Right Reverend Cleophas Lunga, Very Reverend Fritz N Madida and Reverend FR Moffat Musasa wrote a letter to the chief lands officer Matabeleland South indicating that the farm belonged to the church and that they were worried over fresh invasions.
“Prior to the illegal settlement on the farm in the year 2000 onward a portion of the farm was utilised for game ranching. As alluded to, the farm was invaded by settlers illegally in the year 2000 onward. It had not been gazetted for resettlement in the land reform programme (letter from lands officer: I/183/MS dated November 4 2014 refers),” the letter read in part.