Constitutional law – Constitution of Zimbabwe 1980 – Declaration of Rights – right to protection of the law – prosecution of former farm employees for unlawfully remaining on farm after acquisition – legislation creating an offence to do so constitutional – no constitutional issue arising
Land – acquisition – former employees remaining on farm – no right to do so – employment ceased on acquisition of farm – liable to prosecution for occupying gazetted land without lawful authority
The applicants were former employees on a farm that had been expropriated for resettlement and had been allocated to other beneficiaries. They did not vacate the farm when it was expropriated and continued to live and work on it.
The respondent had ordered that they vacate the farm as they were occupying the land unlawfully. They refused to do as they held that as part of their conditions of employment with the previous owner, he gave them accommodation, food and facilities. They maintained that the acquisition of the farm had not meant the automatic termination of their contract of employment, rather that it had resulted in a transfer of the farming undertaking and consequently, the beneficiaries had assumed the position of employer, with the concomitant responsibility of maintaining terms and conditions similar to those they previously enjoyed.
The court first had to decide whether a constitutional issue arose before the Court, if not then there would be no need to hear the matter any further. Secondly, whether the applicants were guilty of a criminal offence and if so, whether the applicants would remain employees of the new farm owners.
The court held that Section 3 of the Gazetted Lands Act had been scrutinized by the Supreme Court on numerous occasions and was found to be constitutional. Therefore, the court re-affirmed the provision that criminalized their unlawful occupation and held that there was no constitutional issue to be referred.
The matter was dismissed.