Zimbabwe minorities face eviction from ancestral lands
CHILONGA—Already forced off their land when a South African-based sugar company acquired the land, thousands of Zimbabweans from the minority tribes are facing further eviction southeast of the country.
The government has come under criticism amid the plans to evict the about 12,000 Shangaan/Tsonga tribesmen from their ancestral land in Chilonga village south of the district capital of Chiredzi.
There are plans to set up a grass-growing project for dairy cattle.
The villagers have previously suffered eviction when cane sugar giant, Tongaat Hulett, initially invested in Hippo Valley, Mkwasine and Triangle. The investment pushed them down south.
It is believed government is not willing to compensate the communities or provide alternative land to resettle them.
A letter seen by the Lowveld Post, written from the Ministry of Local Government, Urban and Rural Development, states: “This notice may be cited as the Communal Lands (Setting Aside of Land) (Chiredzi) Notice, 2021.
“The area of land described hereunder in terms of the Schedule shall be set aside with effect from the date of publication of this notice for the purpose of lucerne production.
“Any person occupying or using the land specified in the Schedule, otherwise than by virtue of a right held in terms Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21:05), is ordered to depart permanently with all of his or her property from the said land by the date of publication of this notice, unless he or she acquires rights of use or occupation to the said land in terms of section (9) (1) of the Communal Land Act (Chapter 20:04).
This notice sparked outcry.
Nelson Chamisa, president of one of the factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), accused the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa of cruelty.
“Evicting 12 500 Chilonga villagers in Chiredzi for a grass dairy project (lucerne or Alfalfa grass) is criminal and vile,” Chamisa stated.
“Chiyadzwa, Chingwizi, Chisumbanje greenfuel evictions show disdain of citizens. Capital and profits must not undermine citizens’ rights, heritage and dignity,” Chamisa added.
Local villagers are also dismayed.
Kazamula Matsilele from Chilonga told Lowveld Post: “What the government is doing is very wicked. This is not just cruel, but tribalism at its worst.”
He added, “Our people (VaTsonga/Shangaan) have nowhere to run. I believe very soon they shall be forced into the Indian Ocean since there will be nowhere to run to.”
Masimba Troy called on the opposition to hold government accountable.
“Provide free legal challenge. Make noise in parliament (about this forced eviction),” he appealed to the MDC.
There is also an outcry on social media.
Vonie_HC stated to the MDC: “Please show leadership and stop sleeping on duty. Drive down to Chilonga and meet the villagers.”
The individual said her father owns 10 hectares of land there and stood to lose out.
“We spent good money to clear and prepare for farming. We built properties there.”
Garikai Goremusandu appealed to human rights lawyers to assist.
However, the government has a history of flouting court rulings.
John Mudirajecha reacted: “I have never been to Chiredzi but I am with you on this one. No justification at all to displace families from their land for a grass project.”
Helen Mustvairo forecast government would deploy the military if villagers resisted.
“Those places (Chilonga) will be full of military, let’s not forget Chiadzwa massacres,” she said.
Government deployed the military in Chiadzwa following the discovery of diamonds. The discoveries sparked a mineral rush in 2006.
The army is accused of human rights violations against villagers and informal miners.
Photo: A field of lucerne, or alfalfa grass, the crop intended to replace some 12,000 villagers. Source: cajnews.