Whose Constitution?

In 2000 at the height of the Zimbabwean Fast-Track Land Reform programme roughly 200 families were allocated land by the Zimbabwean government on the Arnold Farm in Mazowe. 17 years later these families are facing destitution as the First Lady of Zimbabwe, Grace Mugabe, has set her eyes on the land so she can create a game sanctuary.

I first became aware of this in January 2017, after the courts had ruled that the government and police were barred from harassing the families by demolishing their houses  or purporting to evict them without a court order and possession of the land was restored to the families with immediate effect.

So it came as a shock when I saw distressed messages from Linda Masarira a couple of months after this judgement, as she sent pictures of these families being displaced and moved to Rivers Farm, roughly 40 km away from their home. They had minimal belongings with them, their homes had been demolished, their livestock and crops left on the farm where they were removed and now facing the prospect where to start, without food or shelter. For a lot of them, that is the only home their children had ever known, they were in school and now their education had been disrupted. The residents had stated that heavily armed police and government officials had confronted the families and demolished their homes without a court order, in clear disregard to the January 2017 court order. An urgent application to the high court, led to Judge Felistas Chitukuta upholding the decision made in January 2017.

So the Arnold Farm saga continued, one would have thought that the second High Court judgement, on the 24th of March 2017, would have drawn a line in the sand on the issue and the families of Arnold Farm would be left in peace. The ruling would have been sufficient had it not been for the case that the First Lady of Zimbabwe Grace Mugabe wants the same plot of land for a game sanctuary. Linda Masarira posed a valid question: “Does this mean the First Lady is above the constitution of Zimbabwe?”

Maybe it is me, but this whole situation does not make sense in any way shape or form. First of all, does this mean that the constitution and rule of law no longer hold any weight, as a court of the land provided a judgement that has been ignored and the ZRP who are supposed to uphold these judgements are the ones acting against the law at the behest of an individual? So, when does one become greater than the constitution of the country? I had to look for the Constitution of Zimbabwe, I am not a lawyer and neither have I trained to review law, but one thing is certain, the constitution of Zimbabwe is clear in Chapter 1 (Founding Provisions) on the Supremacy of the Constitution and that any other inconsistencies are invalid. It also goes on to say that obligations imposed by the constitution are binding on EVERY person, natural or juristic, including the state and all executive, legislative and judicial institutions and agencies of government at every level, and must be fulfilled by them.

Secondly, does this mean the First Lady, aka Amai Mugabe who is supposed to care for ALL citizens of Zimbabwe as if we were her own, has valued the lives of wild animals above the lives of the human beings who are meant to be protected by our constitution? I mean we have national parks in Zimbabwe and I would think that those would be the most appropriate places for the sanctuaries to be placed.

If the constitution is supreme, why are these families being treated in such a manner? It beggars belief that the law is clear on what can and cannot happen, but the upper echelons of power have chosen to ignore this and have run roughshod over people’s rights. So is it the case that George Orwell  was right when he famously said in his book Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”, in clear contradiction of the constitutions Founding Values and Principles where all human beings are said to be equal and fundamental human rights and freedoms for all should be respected?

After the second High Court ruling allowing these families to stay on, these families find themselves displaced. They were forcibly removed from their homes, dropped off 40 kms from their home, living along a river bank without clean water, food, shelter, their possessions and livelihoods. Their livestock and crops were left behind when they were removed from the land.

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