15,000 people could lose their stands after the High Court ordered the Chitungwiza Municipality to stop allocating residential stands at the Nyatsime Housing Scheme and ruled that beneficiaries must vacate the farm on which the project is situated.
The local authority has been allocating stands under the scheme at Bramaer Farm and most of the residents had already fully paid council for the stands as far back as 2007. Some of the residents were already on the land while the council was in the process of publishing names of other beneficiaries in the press, ahead of the allocation of stands.
Community leaders told SW Radio Africa that people joined the housing scheme on the understanding that it was above board. They said as far as they knew the land was given to the council by the late and former governor for Harare, David Karimanzira.
However the farmers approached the court seeking an order to stop the scheme arguing that the land was offered to them under the land grab programme and it was not part of Chitungwiza but part of the Mashonaland East province. They argued that the Chitungwiza boundaries had not been legally extended and there was no government gazette saying the land had been set aside for urban development.
The land grab beneficiaries also argued that the occupation of the farm by the municipality and residents would disturb farming activities as the rainy season approached.
On Tuesday Justice Loice Matanda Moyo granted the farmers their wish and ordered the occupants to vacate the farm forthwith 'pending the finalisation of the matter.'
Chitungwiza Progressive Residents Association leader Admire Zaya said it was 'sad' that people's livelihoods were now thrown into jeopardy. Zaya said the development did not reflect well on the council which he said should have made sure that such things don't happen. He said his organisation will be approaching the provincial administrator to ascertain the real owner of the land.
These developments come at a time when the council is also seeking permission from the High Court to demolish some structures which it says were built in illegal areas in and around Chitungwiza.
The local authority argues that it did not authorise the construction of those houses and yet the residents acquired land from individuals, some of whom had set up an office just next to the council headquarters. An audit linked officials, including councillors and senior managers, to the scam.