HARARE -Â THE Â Zimbabwe High Court on Monday ordered police to stop evicting farmers from their land to make way for a game park allegedly planned by first lady Grace Mugabe, a human rights lawyer said.
Reports say police had been planning to evict about 200 people from a farm in Mazowe district, about 40 kilometres north of Harare. About 100 people had their homes demolished by Friday, witnesses told dpa.
The government said the number of people to be evicted was much lower and denied that the evictions had anything to do with the wife of President Robert Mugabe. Grace Mugabe owns a dairy farm nearby.
The evictions left some people without shelter. Tonderal Bhatasara from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights filed a court application to stop them.
The High Court said citizens could not be evicted without a court order and without giving them an alternative place to live.
The court ruling “means the families can stay and go about their activities as before. … These families have gone through a traumatic experience,” Bhatasara told journalists.
Some of the evicted farmers said Grace Mugabe wanted to take over the property to set up a game reserve.
But the government said it was only evicting people looking for gold who had illegally settled on land earmarked for a national park.
Robert Mugabe carried out a decades-long land reform in order to settle black farmers on land owned by a white minority.
Between 1980 and 2009, more than 13 of the 15 million hectares that had been controlled mostly by 6,000 white farmers were transferred to more than 240,000 families of rural origin.
Critics say wealthy Zimbabweans profited from the reform, with some politicians seizing several farms, even though no individual was supposed to get more than one. Grace Mugabe reportedly seized several farms. -Â Sapa-dpa