6 November 2017

Zimbabwe: Evicted Villagers Freed From Police Custody

Bulawayo — A ZIMBABWEAN court south of the country has released on free bail over 70 villagers, including the elderly and juveniles, arrested during conflict over land with the government. The 72 villagers in the drought-prone Matopo, Matabeleland South were arrested last week as the officers of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) forcibly evicted them Fox Farm. They are charged with contravening the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act. President Robert Mugabe's government uses the law to take over land purportedly for redistribution but it largely ends up in the hands of the cronies of the ruling Zanu-PF party. Police partisan to the ruling party have violently driven villagers off the land. Ironically, some occupants took over land at the height of the violent seizures which Mugabe sanctioned from 2000. Prosecutors at the Kezi Magistrates Court claimed the villagers in Matopo had unlawfully occupied some land of which they were not authorised to occupy, hold or use. Following the intervention by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the court has granted them free bail. Magistrate Arafat Khonzani ordered the villagers to report to the police once every week on Friday and not interfere with state witnesses. Khonzani remanded the villagers to November 28.

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