The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) Tuesday heard an application filed by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on behalf of some Chilonga villagers who are challenging the barring of rural dwellers from owning land in rural areas. The Chilonga villagers’ lawyer, advocate Tendai Biti, who is also a co-deputy president of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), told judges that barring rural dwellers from having title to their land is a racist practice.
Olivia Zvedi from the Attorney General (AG)’s Office told the ConCourt Judges that the Chilonga community, which the government wanted to move so as to set up an irrigation or lucerne grass production project, will not be moved from their ancestral land.
Zvedi also said there is a need for a new system for communal land tenure in Zimbabwe.
The Chilonga villagers want Sections 4 and 6 of the Communal Lands Act to be declared unconstitutional.
Biti questioned why one cannot be allowed to own ancestral land in Chiendambuya but be allowed to own land in Borrowdale. He says this is an assault on the dignity of Africans.
The villagers are arguing that the intended eviction is an unlawful deprivation of their right to property as enshrined in Section 71 and Section 72 of the Constitution arguing that no person may be compulsorily deprived of their property.
The government is arguing that Section 4 and Section 6(1)(b) of the Communal Land Act are not in breach of the Constitution and that there is nothing wrong with endowing communal land to the State President and this is done to ensure orderly development.
It also argues that the agricultural venture would generate foreign currency, rural development, provision of basic amenities like clinics, schools and better housing and the establishment of an economic hub in Chilonga.