By  Austin Karonga SENIOR STAFF WRITER Karonga@dailynews.co.zw 

OVER 12 000 villagers from Chilonga communal lands in Chiredzi, Masvingo, are facing eviction after the High Court yesterday dismissed their application to stop the government from taking over their place of habitat and turn it into lucerne production farm.

Judge Joseph Fusire ruled that the matter should be decided by the executive, not the courts.

The villagers from the ethnic community known as Hlengwe Shangaani in areas bordering Chikombedzi, Chiredzi, Gonarezhou, Hippo Valley, Malilangwe, Mwenezi and Triangle had challenged the government’s decision to seize their land.

According to Statutory Instrument 50 of 2021, the land in question was set aside for the purpose of lucerne production and this did not go down well with the dwellers.

The villagers, through one Livison Chikutu, Phineas Chitsange and Albert Dhumela, approached the High Court and cited Lands minister Anxious Masuka, Local Government minister July Moyo, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the Attorney General as respondents.

 “The history presented by the applicants in this application rings true for virtually every piece of the African continent that was under colonialism. It is virtually impossible to narrate it with dispassionate detachment without getting emotionally entangled,” read Justice Fusire’s judgment.

“However, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the case, and the remedy the applicants seek, it becomes a different ball game altogether. There are simply some things or problems that the law and the courts alone may not accomplish or resolve. There are simply some issues that a court alone may be ill-equipped to provide a solution to. There could be some questions that the law and the courts are perfectly poised and empowered to resolve.

“Then there are others that require a political solution. Sometimes politics has to speak first, and only then may the law take over. Where politics has not yet spoken, or where it has spoken something else, there may well be a lacuna in the law. The courts may be ill-equipped to fill the gap. Where a matter is not capable of judicial resolution, the court may decline jurisdiction.”

Justice Fusire dismissed the application with no costs.

 “Courts do not recognise the political question doctrine. There are certain decisions that are better left to Parliament or the Executive to resolve,” read the judgment.

“The application cannot succeed. However, I disagree with the respondent’s contention that it was frivolous and vexatious. It was not. It was public interest litigation. Such kinds of challenges may actually dog the courts in the future. Therefore, in dismissing the application, it is only fair that each party bears its own costs…the application is hereby dismissed, but with no order as to costs,” read the judgment. 

Tendai Biti represented the applicants, while Olivia Zvedi was for the respondents.