Chiadzwa villagers demand soldiers’ withdrawal

VILLAGERS in Chiadzwa, Manicaland, are demanding the immediate withdrawal of soldiers from the diamond rich area, whom they accuse of demanding national identity cards and assaulting those found without.

According to an application filed at the High Court by Malvern Mudiwa and Newman Chiadzwa on behalf of the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust, the villagers also want the declaration of Chiadzwa as a protected area in terms of the Protected Places and Areas Act (Chapter 11:12) declared unlawful and void.
They said the police and the army have unlawfully ordered the business operators at Zengeni Business Centre to close their shops.
The villagers said the police, acting on orders from Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, were also threatening to close all businesses operating in Chiadzwa.
Through their lawyer George Gapu of Scanlen & Holderness, the plaintiffs served summons on co-Ministers of Home Affairs Giles Mutsekwa and Kembo Mohadi, Chihuri and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa in December last year and the case is now before the High Court.
Public buses have been prohibited from plying routes in Chiadzwa that pass through Zengeni business centre, the court papers read.
The villagers said demanding identity cards, prohibiting public buses and closing businesses in the area were unconstitutional as such acts violate Section 22 of the Zimbabwe constitution that guarantees freedom of movement.
In the summons the villagers blamed the abuses on the declaration made by Mohadi in 2007 making Chiadzwa a protected area in terms of the Protected Places and Areas Act.
The summons read: “The plaintiffs’ claim is for a declaratur that the declaration of Chiadzwa as a protected area in terms of the Protected Places and Areas Act is unlawful and therefore void; ii) a declaratur that the prohibition of buses from plying routes in Chiadzwa is unlawful as it violates section 22 of the constitution of Zimbabwe and has no lawful basis.
“A declaratur that members of the Zimbabwe National Army are not authorised officers in terms of the Protected Places and Areas Act.”
In their declaration, the plaintiffs added that: “In pursuant to the declaration, officers employed by the Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police moved into the Chiadzwa area and are demanding identity cards from the local residents/inhabitants and are randomly assaulting people found without the identity documents.”
The villagers want the court to direct and compel Mnangagwa to remove soldiers from the Chiadzwa area or alternatively direct him to ensure that members of the army cease demanding their identity cards and stop assaulting them.
In response, the ministers and police commissioner represented by the Civil Division of the Attorney-General’s office denied the allegations and dismissed them as malicious.
“These allegations are malicious, further shown by the lack of proof, proof which can only be in the form of affidavits by business people alleging such threats”, read the defendants’ plea. “The declaration of the area was done way back in 2007 and the applicants now seek to reverse a process that has seen the moving in of investors in Chiadzwa and diamond mining is underway.”
The defence also said the allegation that provisions of the Protected Areas Act are unconstitutional could only be challenged in the constitutional court.
“The plaintiffs have approached a wrong forum to have their concerns addressed. Therefore we pray that this application
be dismissed with costs,” the defendants said.
The defence further said that the plaintiffs have issued summons against the defendants without giving notice in writing of the intention to bring claim in accordance with provisions of the State Liabilities Act as read with a section of the Police Act.
Replying to the defendants’ plea, the plaintiffs said the State Liabilities Act does not apply to the claim in issue and that they were not required to give notice for a claim of this nature.
One of the plaintiffs, Newman Chiadzwa, was last month jailed for five years and fined US$132 764 for possessing 43 028 carats of diamond by a Mutare magistrate.
The Zimbabwe army and police have been accused of mass murder in a fierce crackdown on illegal diamond mining in the Chiadzwa area.
Human Rights Watch estimated that at least 200 people were killed during the crackdown, but local villagers believe that the figure was much higher and that people were secretly buried. Government has rubbished the claims.
Government sent in the army and intelligence officers after the local police were accused of taking bribes from the miners and failing to keep law and order in the area.

 

Wongai Zhangazha

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