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UZ students' eviction: ZLHR petitions High Court

by Stephen Jakes
28 Jun 2017 at 10:10hrs | Views
HIGH Court Judge Justice Nyaradzo Munangati-Manongwa will today preside over the hearing of an urgent chamber application filed by human rights lawyers on behalf of University of Zimbabwe (UZ) students seeking an order to overturn the university's arbitrary decision to evict medical students from their halls of residence.

The students from the UZ's College of Health Sciences  staged a demonstration to protest against the university authorities' decision to hike tuition fees without carrying out any consultations with the students.

However, university authorities disproportionately and heavy-handedly responded to the students' protest by suppressing it.

After the students' protest, the UZ authorities issued a circular ordering all medical students to move out of the halls of residence on campus and off campus with immediate effect, and by no later than 13:15 hours of 26 June 2017.

In their urgent chamber application filed on Tuesday 27 June 2017, the students' lawyers Bellinda Chinowawa and Noble Chinhanu of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights argued that they were shocked and taken aback as the notice period to move out of the university halls of residence was unreasonably short, given how difficult it is to secure alternative accommodation.

The lawyers argued that the students, who cited the UZ, Vice-Chancellor Levi Nyagura and Mr Chevo, the Registrar of the UZ, do not have anywhere to go and secure accommodation at such short notice and are currently living in the open and left to the mercy of the elements.

The lawyers argued that the students' matter is consequently one of extreme urgency as their final term examinations commence on Wednesday 27 June 2017 and they would be unable to read for them under such arduous circumstances.

They also protested that examinations are scheduled to commence on Wednesday 27 June 2017 and this sudden requirement to secure alternative accommodation has created an unexpected hardship at a time when they should be pouring all their energies into preparing for these examinations.

The actions of the UZ authorities, the students argued violate some provisions of the Constitution including Section 68 which enshrines the right to administrative justice, Section 59 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to demonstrate and petition and Section 74 which provides for freedom from arbitrary eviction.

The students argued that the respondents cannot arbitrarily evict them on short notice.

The UZ students contested that the conduct of the UZ authorities in summarily evicting them from the university halls of residence is arbitrary and irrational and flies in the face of the new constitutional dispensation under which the country is operating under.

The UZ authorities, the students argued, are not empowered to punish them for exercising their constitutional rights and the decision to evict all students from halls of residents without giving them the opportunity to make representations is so unreasonable that no reasonable authority would ever consider imposing it.

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