BINGA villagers on Friday filed a High Court application seeking an order compelling the Binga Rural District Council and the Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development ministry to stop their plan of displacing more than 1 000 people from Siansundu village, which they intend to develop into an urban setting.
Four villagers representing the entire village, filed court papers last Friday at the Bulawayo High Court.
Their lawyer, Lizwe Jamela of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, yesterday confirmed the development, saying the rural council’s master plan, which prescribed the development of the area into a town-like settlement, was likely to displace quite a large number of villagers if implemented, hence they sought a court order to stop the council from doing that.
In their application, Jameson Mkombe, Aaron Mdimba, Evelyn Mudenda and Emion Mupande cited the Binga council chief executive officer, district administrator, provincial administrator and Local Government Public Works and Urban Development minister as the first to fourth respondents respectively.
In his founding affidavit, Mkombe said he was the village head at Siansundu and Mvundu villages and he filed the affidavit in the capacity as a chosen representative of the community.
He said he lived in the area since his birth in 1971 and his parents lived there even before he was born.
“From as early as 1985, the first respondent (council) office has been allocating land belonging to our community to other people and for other purposes without consulting the village,” submitted Mkombe.
“In 1985 a portion of the second applicant’s (Mdimba) fields was allocated to a veterinary office without any consultation whatsoever.
“Further in year 2002, some stands were allocated to people who built homes of an urban nature right next to our homesteads.
“Villagers were not consulted or given the option to own those stands either.”
Mkombe submitted that while these developments worried them, they did not feel any threat to their livelihood until this year when council officials visited the village and started pegging a stand for a church without consulting them.
“The stand is pegged on the existing homes of second and third applicants (Mdimba and Mudenda),” reads the affidavit.
“It means the affected people will have to relocate from their homes.
“Being concerned with this issue, I and villagers sought legal advice from a lawyer who advised us they would have to communicate with the first respondent (council).”
Mkombe said their lawyer wrote to the council seeking clarity and the lawyers even went to council offices.
“I am advised that our legal representatives were shown a master plan of Siansundu village and this plan indeed has a church planned on the land of the second, third and fourth applicants’ (Mdimba, Mudenda, and Mupande) homesteads.
“Of significant importance is that the plan shows that the council seeks to establish what it terms a rural service centre for our rural area with a post office, supermarket, commercial offices and it even has residential stands.
“All these things are planned on our existing homesteads as though our homesteads do not exist.”
Mkombe said should this plan be implemented, it meant the entire village would be displaced, saying Siansundu village comprised 126 homesteads.
“In total there are 1 135 people,” he said.
“The majority are elderly people and young children who economically and physically are not in a position to start afresh.
“People who stand affected are too many by any standard to displace, especially where there is no plan for compensation and relocation.
“Even if there is a plan for compensation, I believe it will cost the respondents less financial resources to plan the rural service centre elsewhere at a place adjacent to the village than to move everyone, who in any fact, is supposed to be benefiting from the creation of a service centre.
“I find no logic in displacing the very people who are supposed to benefit from establishment of the service centre.”
The said master plan was reportedly drawn in 1996 and approved in 1998 by the council.
Villagers said, according to their lawyers, the council has not yet given an option as to what it will do with them when they lose their homes to that service centre construction.
“The conduct of the respondents not only defeats logic, but violates our constitutionally enshrined rights and is, therefore, unlawful,” Mkombe said.
“I am advised by my legal practitioner that the Constitution provides that we should not be arbitrarily evicted from our homes or have our properties demolished without a court order.
“The planning of a service centre on our land amounts to an arbitrary eviction as we will be forced to move when the eminent construction of the church and supermarkets start.”
Mkombe prayed for an order stopping the council from evicting them from their land.
Jamela said the date of the hearing is yet to be set.