AT least 15 000 people who acquired residential stands at the Nyatsime Housing Scheme in Chitungwiza are set to lose them after the High Court on Tuesday interdicted council from occupying or allocating them to people at one of the farms earmarked for urban settlement.

Most of the beneficiaries had fully paid for the residential stands to council as far back as 2007, but they had not been shown the real stands.

Over the past seven weeks, Chitungwiza Municipality has been publishing lists of beneficiaries in the press, raising the hopes of thousands of home seekers who had already paid for the stands. Some of the beneficiaries were already on the land, but Justice Loice Matanda Moyo ordered them off the farm when she made the ruling.

"The first to fourth respondents (Chitungwiza Municipality, Harare provincial administrator Mr Alfred Tome, Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Dr Ignatius Chombo and Chigumete) and all those claiming occupation through them be and are hereby ordered to cease forthwith occupying Bramaer Farm," she ruled.

"They are hereby ordered to vacate the area pending finalisation of this matter. The sheriff and Zimbabwe Republic Police be and are hereby ordered to effect the provisions of paragraph 1."
The main dispute is whether or not the land should be converted from agricultural land to urban settlement, with the farmers arguing that the farm was not part of Chitungwiza and that it was not urban land.

They argued that the land was offered to them under the land reform programme by the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement and Chitungwiza had nothing to do with it.

Justice Matanda Moyo granted the order at the time Chitungwiza Municipality was updating its database through publishing names of beneficiaries of the stands every week.

Names of at least 600 beneficiaries have so far been published in the press, with more still to be announced.

Thousands of people were offered high density and low density stands in the Nyatsime area and they had paid for the stands in full.

Some paid for the stands during the Zimbabwe dollar era in 2007 and they were ordered to top up the payments in United States dollars after the introduction of the multi-currency system.

In the urgent application filed by the new farmers' lawyers Mtombeni, Mukwesha and Muzawazi last week, it was argued that the illegal settlers should be ordered off the farm because their occupation would disturb the farmers' programmes as the rainy season approached.

They argued that Chitungwiza's boundaries had not been extended by Presidential proclamation in terms of the Urban Councils Act.

It was also argued that there was no Government Gazette proclaiming Bramaer Farm as land re-gazetted for urban development.

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