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HIGH COURT judge, Erica Ndewere has ordered an immediate stop to the demolition of homes belonging to 200 families settled at a Mazowe farm the First Lady, Grace Mugabe was allegedly eyeing for a game park.

There were tears of joy yesterday when Justice Ndewere passed the ruling after hearing submissions from human rights lawyers representing the troubled villagers and those representing the police, together with the Home Affairs and Lands Ministers. The villagers had sought temporary relief from the evictions.

Speaking to journalists just after the ruling, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights' Tonderai Bhatasara, who stood for the villagers, welcomed the verdict.

"We are happy that our position has been vindicated," he said.

"Justice Ndewere granted the interim relief that our clients wanted. So the police have been interdicted from continuing to demolish and evict the applicants from Arnold Farm."

The ruling, Bhatasara added, was in terms of Section 74 of the country's Constitution which prohibits arbitrary evictions or demolitions of citizens' homes without a court order.

"The court recognised the supremacy of the Constitution; that it is above basically everyone else and all the conduct that has to be done has to be in compliance with the Constitution.

"I feel relieved and happy that after all this has happened to my clients who experienced some traumatic experiences and imagine their kids are supposed to be at school.

"They were in limbo now, they were uncertain if this was going to happen (favourable ruling)."

The villagers have endured rain and cold nights in the open since truckloads of police officers were dispatched Wednesday last week to evict them from a place they have called their homes for nearly a decade.

There are concerns however that since the First Family's name has featured prominently in the saga, authorities may elect to ignore the court order, which comes after police ignored an almost similar one passed last August.

Mashonaland Central provincial governor, Martin Dinha has distanced the Zanu PF women's league boss from the chaos, insisting the evictions were purely a decision by his administration which wants the settlers to relocate to a land designated as their new place.

Despite the strong denials, Aspinas Makufa, a member of Arnold Farm residents association said when police descended on the area, "they equated us to an ant trying to fight an elephant".

This was in apparent reference to the villagers resisting orders to vacate the land by Grace.

Daaisi Musekiwa, one of the handful villagers who travelled to hear the outcome of the case, welcomed the ruling but lamented the labour now required to rebuild their homes deep into the current cropping season.

He denied claims by Dinha, they were a bunch of illegal gold panners resisting eviction.

"We are not gold panners," he said, "Anyone who wants to prove we are real farmers must come on the ground and see how much crop we have planted.

"Speaking for myself, I have planted eight hectares of maize and three hectares of soya bean and l have 33 herd of cattle which l raised from scratch while at Arnold Farm."

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