By Kumbirai Mafunda
A Zimbabwean court has faulted the City of Harare (CoH) for disobeying a lawful court order after the local authority continued with housing developments on a wetland in one of Harare’s suburbs.
High Court Judge Justice Mary Zimba-Dube on Friday 27 September 2019 declared CoH to be in contempt of court after some residents of Greendale suburb in Harare represented by Memory Mafo and Fiona Iliff of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights petitioned the High Court by filing a court application for contempt of court against the local authority.
In their application, the Greendale Residents and Ratepayers Association argued that CoH had proceeded to continue with housing developments on the Latimer/Greengroove Wetland Area and the Nature Reserve and Open and Passive space also known as Stand 298 Athlone Township in the Mukuvisi Catchment Area in Greendale suburb in flagrant defiance of and total contempt of a lawful court order issued by Justice Erica Ndewere. On 8 May 2019, Justice Ndewere prohibited the local authority from developing and or constructing on a wetland until and unless the local municipality had fully complied with the requirements of the Environmental Management Act and the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act.
In court, Mafo and Iliff argued that CoH’s conduct was unlawful and called on the court to hold the local authority to be in contempt. Justice Zimba Dube also fined CoH ZWL$5, which was wholly suspended on condition that the local authority immediately complies with Justice Ndewere’s order issued on 8 May 2019.
Apart from CoH, Environmental Management Agency, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Hon. July Moyo, Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Minister Hon. Mangaliso Ndlovu and Upper Manyame Sub-Catchment Council were also cited as respondents by Greendale Residents and Ratepayers Association. On several occasions, ZLHR has emphasised that wetlands need to be maintained for the ecosystem to be preserved and has urged government to put mechanisms to help protect and preserve wetlands with calls for authorities to establish a national environment council and bar land barons from allocating stands on swamps.
ZLHR has also expressed grave concern at the continued destruction and disturbance of wetlands around the country, pointing out that this destruction and degradation of wetlands has far reaching implications on the sustained availability of ground water, which is also heavily relied upon by many households that are not able to access municipal water.