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Judge throws out Chishawasha villagers’ appeal

Scales of justice

A High Court judge has struck off the roll an application by some villagers in Chishawasha seeking to stop the urbanisation process taking place in the area ruling that it was not urgent.

In her judgement, delivered on the 7th of December 2023, High Court Judge Honourable Justice Emilia Muchawa ruled that the matter was not urgent, and struck it off the roll in terms of rule 60 (18) of the High Court Rules 2021.

Some villagers in the area had approached the courts seeking an interdict to stop the urbanisation programme currently taking place. The villagers accused the Chishawasha Land Project (Private) Limited – a company owned by the Catholic Church’s Jesuits alleging that they had drawn up a plan to evict them from their ancestral communal land and turn it into an urban settlement.

This is despite the Jesuits – successfully acquiring a permit for a change of land use from agriculture to urban land with predominant residential use in 2018, after obtaining the Development Permit from the Ministry of Local Government Department of Physical Planning (DPP).

In their defence, the Jesuits, through their lawyers Mbidzo Muchadehama and Makoni Legal Practitioners argued that the applicants knew as far back as 3 June 2021 about developments in the area, when Integrated Properties – who are overseeing the development in the area as Project Managers wrote to all occupiers in Chishawasha Farm prohibiting further developments, citing the Development permit which prohibited certain activities, that the urbanisation project was commencing.

“This letter (informing inhabitants of the urbanisation process) was attached to their application. After this letter, the villagers attended engagement meetings convened by the Developer. They therefore did not approach the court when the need to act arose. They did not challenge the permit in terms of section 38 of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act,” the lawyers said.

A census was conducted for all the vaShawashasa who will not be moved except for those in areas where the roads, power lines, cemeteries and other servitudes will be compensated and relocated within Chishawasha using government-approved rates.

Contacted for a comment, Isaac Chimbetete, who is the General Manager for the Project speaking on behalf of the Developer said:

“Contrary to popular belief, the Jesuits are not fighting with VaShawasha, as they are aware of the villagers’ concerns. They have always engaged with all stakeholders including the traditional leadership, the local authority and the VaShawasha living at Chishawasha Farm. No recognised VaShawasha will be evicted from Chishawasha Farm, which has now been converted into an urban development.

“The project is being undertaken in seven phases and we will be engaging those whose current residences fall within the current development phase service areas, to discuss with them about compensation and relocation to other stands within Chishawasha. As a matter of fact, we have already engaged some of the families residing on stands designated for cemetery use, who are amenable to be relocated to pave the way for the development. To this end, we are currently working on servicing this relocation block”.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende