Gwanda Villagers Set Free Over Illegal Occupation of State Land

Gwanda Villagers Set Free Over Illegal Occupation of State Land

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A ZIMBABWEAN court has set free 61 villagers, who were being prosecuted in Gwanda, in Matabeleland South province, on charges of illegally occupying state land without lawful authority.

The 61 villagers, who reside in Nyandeni community in Gwanda in Matabeleland South province, had been scheduled to stand trial at Gwanda Magistrates Court after they were arrested by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers on 7 February 2024 during a dragnet arrest and summarily charged with occupying gazetted land without lawful authority as defined in Section 3(1)(4) as read with Section 5 of the Gazetted Land Consequential Provisions.

In court, prosecutors alleged that the 61 villagers unlawfully held, used or occupied land at Hollins Block Estate in Gwanda, which is gazetted land and without lawful authority.

Initially, the 61 villagers were arrested by ZRP officers together with 119 others, who included a nonagenarian, octogenarian, septuagenarians, sexagenarians and youths. However, 119 villagers were set free, leaving the 61 villagers facing prosecution.

But their prosecution ordeal came to an end on Tuesday 26 March 2024 when Gwanda Magistrate Talent Phiri removed them from remand after their lawyer Jabulani Mhlanga of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, challenged further placement of the villagers on remand as he argued that the alleged facts presented in court by prosecutors did not disclose an offence or link the rural dwellers to the alleged commission of the offence.

Magistrate Phiri agreed with Mhlanga and ordered prosecutors to proceed by summoning the villagers to appear in court once they intend to prosecute them again.

The Gwanda villagers are part of several people, who were arrested recently by ZRP officers and charged for allegedly occupying gazetted land without lawful authority, a charge which they denied as most of them argued that they were in occupation of their ancestral land.

ENDS

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