Godfrey Mtimba.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has approached Masvingo High court appealing against both conviction and sentence of 16 settlers from Manyama who were found guilty of illegally settling on state land by a Masvingo Magistrate   and ordered to vacate their homes in 7 days.

Over 200 alleged illegal settlers were convicted by various Magistrates in Masvingo and Gutu and received sentences ranging from 3 to 4 wholly suspended months with a $100 fine and ordered to vacate their land in 7 days.

ZLHR lawyer, Phillip Tanaka Shumba of Mutendi, Mudisi and Shumba legal practitioners filed their appeal at the High court on behalf of Gertrude Hove and 15 others demanding that sentence be set aside as their clients were wrongfully convicted by the lower court.

In the appeal ZHLR argue that lower courts erred by convicting every settler for settling in gazetted land when others did not.

“The court a quo erred by holding that all applicants were illegally occupying gazzeted land without properly ascertaining whether the land each and every applicant was occupying fell within the ambit of the government gazette in question,” read part of the appeal.

The appeal also accused the lower court of erring in convicting their clients who were allocated land by council an act which raised constitutional questions.

Against the sentence, ZLHR argued that giving 7 days eviction orders from the only homes they have was grossly unreasonable.

“The court a quo erred in ordering the applicants eviction when it is apparent that section 3(5) of the Act directly infringes the Applicant rights as enshrined in section 74 of the constitution,” 

ZLHR in their closing affidavits prayed that the conviction and sentence be quashed and urged the matter to be referred to the constitutional court.

ZLHR has also approached Masvingo Magistrate, Ivy Jawana appealing for permission for the villagers to stay at their homes while the case is heard at the High court.

Magistrate Jawana has since granted the appeal.

Scores of villagers from Bhuka, Nemamwa, Mushandike and Mashava were also convicted and some have since left their homes after destroying them for fear of being arrested.

The villagers lost their livestock, crops and other properties worth thousands of dollar and were not given an option of alternative land or compensation.

Most of the villagers allege that they were settl3edby government during the chaotic land reform programme in 2000 and have stayed at their homers for almost 24 years now.