29 October 2012

Zimbabwe: Lawyers File Supreme Court Challenge After Epworth Demolitions

The demolition of over 200 family homes in Epworth, ordered by a government-owned firm two weeks ago, has led to a Supreme Court case that is meant to change the law and protect a citizen's right to housing.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have filed papers representing six of the families whose homes were bulldozed and who are are homeless. Lawyer Dzimbabwe Chimbga told SW Radio Africa that their clients were put through inhuman and degrading treatment by the government, and proper legal procedure was not followed.

Two weeks ago a government owned company called Sunway City demolished the homes of the families in Epworth. They were given only 48-hours notice to vacate the premises and had nowhere to go. Residents admitted they had been warned by the company. But they allege that local ZANU PF officials told them to stay because the land belonged to the people through ZANU PF's indigenisation program.

"They demolished their homes without giving these people the right to be heard. There were also no alternative plans put into place to protect them. As far as our clients are concerned, they had the right to be there. We are challenging the government to demonstrate why they had the right to demolish," Chimbga said.

He added that they are seeking damages for the six families, worth various amounts depending on the value of property lost by each family. The ZLHR is also not charging a fee for their services because the case is considered a public interest case that could help many other families under similar circumstances.

"There are so many families that have suffered the same loss and obviously we can't take on all their cases. But by doing this one pro-bono we can then use the case to help so many more who are in the same situation. That's why we say this case is in the public interest," the lawyer explained.

The lawyer explained that cases like this, where families are homeless, should be dealt with as urgent cases by the courts. But the judicial system in the country is not functioning as it should and they are still waiting for a response from the Supreme Court.

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