The High Court in Mutare recently made a ruling barring Chipinge Rural District Council from forcefully converting parts of Kodo Communal Lands without following due process. Chipinge Rural District Council (CRDC) wanted to turn parts of Kondo Village into an urban area. They began pegging stands and surveying the village sometime in December 2021 without even informing the Kondo villagers about the process. The alarmed villagers then approached the High Court in May this year seeking an order to stop CRDC from forcibly taking their land for urban purposes.

Justice Chirewa of Mutare High Court sided with the Kondo villagers. He noted that while CRDC has every right to expand their budding town and absorb areas outside Chipinge town, they can only absorb land by following due process as outlined by the law. This does not mean that Kondo Villagers will not eventually lose their land and be forced to move it just means that CRDC has to consult with them and probably compensate them somehow.

The villagers of Kondo village had argued that the land belonged to them as they had been living and tilling this land since time immemorial. They also argued that the CRDC had not consulted them. They only learnt of the plot to turn the land into stands when surveyors started parcelling out stands. This they said was in clear violation of the Communal Lands Act which has procedures that must be followed when land is converted from Communal use to Urban use.

Zimbabwe is urbanising

The latest data from ZIMSTAT shows that Zimbabwe is quickly urbanising with the urban population growing. This has increased the demand for stands and suburbs in urban areas. To relieve the pressure a lot of urban areas like Harare, Gweru, Bulawayo and Chitungwiza have been developing new stands. Often this comes in the form of acquiring adjacent peri-urban communal villages and converting them into suburbs.