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High Court throws out Gweru residents' case on State land

by Staff reporter
08 Jul 2019 at 07:55hrs | Views
THE High Court has dismissed an application by 11 residents who sought a court order blocking the Land Commission from re-convening in Harare for an inquiry into the sale and acquisition of State land in and around the Midlands province dating back to 2005.  

The 11 applicants are beneficiaries of Woodlands Park and Hertfordshire housing projects in Gweru.

The ruling by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo followed an urgent chamber application by Mr Douglas Kanengoni and 10 others challenging a decision by the Land Commission to deliberate on their issues in Harare.

In papers before the court, Mr Kanengoni and his co-applicants through their lawyers Sansole and Senda Legal Practitioners, had cited the Land Commission chairperson Justice Tendai Uchena and his commissioners Mr Andrew Mlalazi, Mr Steven Chakaipa, Dr Tarisai Mutangi, Dr Heather Chingono, Ms Vimbai Nyemba and Ms Petronella Musarurwa and River Valley Properties as respondents.

They wanted an interim order interdicting the Lands Commission from holding any hearing elsewhere until their grievances have been addressed by the court. They also sought an order suspending hearings pending the finalisation of the matter. Justice Moyo ruled that neither the court nor the applicants had powers to dictate on how the Land Commission should conduct its hearings.

"This court cannot usurp the powers of the commission as to who it wants to interview, how and when, that is the commission's mandate and its terms of reference. This court can only intervene if the applicants were being denied the right to be heard," she said.

"There is no law that provides for physical location for a person to be heard, which is why the applicants, are based in Gweru, but seek to be heard here in Bulawayo in this matter. The applicants should simply conform to the directions of the commission as it decides how to operate.  

"No case has been made for any interference by this court." In his founding affidavit, Mr Kanengoni said despite being beneficiaries of the Woodlands and Hertfordshire housing projects, the Land Commission refused to take the evidence of one of the directors of a company they have substantial interests in. He challenged the re-convening of the hearings in Harare to deliberate on issues affecting the Midlands province.

"The commission publicly stated that its interest was to interview and gather evidence from one Smelly Dube, one of the three directors of the eighth respondent (River Valley Properties) who was reportedly ill and could not attend the hearings of 26 June 2019.  

"The commissioners announced on 27 June 2019 that the Gweru hearings regarding the sale and acquisition of Woodlands Park and Hertfordshire shall be moved to Harare to be heard there and thus shutting us out as applicants and including the generality of the people of the Midlands province," he said.

Mr Kanengoni said it was not in the public interest to conduct the hearings without the residents of Gweru or the Midlands province.

"The commission has however, taken a decision to militate against the applicants in the proceedings by moving the hearings to Harare where only the eighth respondent has been invited to give evidence and deliberate with the commission on matters that substantially affect ourselves as beneficiaries of State land in Woodlands Park and Hertfordshire."

The Land Commission visited the province from June 10 to June 28, to gather public views on double or multiple allocations, allocation of stands on spaces meant for schools, clinics, roads, recreational sites, wetlands and open spaces, among others.

Source - chronicle