POLICE Commissioner-General, Godwin Matanga, is facing a 90-day jail term for contempt of court after being sued by property developer, Eddies Pfugari Properties , for failing to provide police details to escort the deputy sheriff to evict thousands of people who illegally occupied the company’s land in Whitecliff, Harare.
Matanga is being sued together with officer in charge at Dzivarasekwa Police Station Judith Tinarwo, who is listed as the first respondent.
The occupants illegally settled on land grabbed from Pfugari and are staring in the face of an eviction after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government failed to compensate the company as earlier agreed.
Pfugari obtained an eviction order at the High Court a few years ago, but the government, through the local government ministry, prevented its implementation after committing to paying for the land.
After government reneged on the payment, the company was left with no option but seek the services of the sheriff of the High Court to implement the eviction.
Pfugari now wants the High Court to grant another order declaring Matanga and his subordinate to be in contempt of court.
They also want the court to ask them to provide the sheriff with sufficient manpower and equipment to enable peace to be maintained while the sheriff implements an earlier eviction order by the same court.
The company’s lawyers, Scanlen & Holderness, argued in the application that the police did not act in accordance with that High Court order despite several written requests.
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The lawyers said this amounts to a will disregard of the court order by Matanga and Tinarwo.
Assistance was supposed to be rendered within ten days of judgment.
“Despite several written requests from the sheriff and the applicant for compliance with the court order, the first and second respondents deliberately withheld the assistance in wilful disregard of the court and ignored the letters from the sheriff and the applicant,” the court documents read.
“The applicant is frustrated by the delays in evicting the illegal occupiers. It continues to suffer financial prejudice as it is being deprived of its property,” the lawyers said.
“The applicant has no other remedy if the respondents maintain their refusal to carry out their constitutional duties but to comply with a specific order of this honourable court.”
“The applicant prays for an order declaring that the first and second respondent to comply with an order of this honourable court. Applicant also seeks an order committing the respondents to prison for a period of 90 days if they fail to provide the required assistance to the sheriff within ten days of the order being granted,” the lawyers said.
However, Matanga and Tinarwo have since filed their own answering affidavits denying any wilful violation of the court order.
“We have never been in wilful disregard of the order of the court as we were waiting for the head of sheriff services to revert back to us for the execution of the order since we had approached them twice on different occasions when they indicated that their office was not yet ready to execute the order as it wanted to issue a new notice of eviction to new occupants who have not been on site before,” the affidavit, seen by The Zimbabwe Independent reads.
They also accused the company of making the application out of malice saying: “We reiterate that we are ready to assist the sheriff upon invitation and not through an contempt of court order.”