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Villagers decry eviction threats

by Staff reporter
28 Mar 2021 at 07:03hrs | Views
After toiling in South Africa for four years without amassing any wealth, Richard (not real name) decided to come back to his rural home in Chilonga to venture into farming.

During the 2019/2020 farming season, Richard grew sorghum and when he sold the crop, he was able to buy a cart and three donkeys.

He says to complement revenue he gets from farming; he digs wells for other members of the community.

"I dig wells and I am very good at it. I was digging wells for members of the community and being paid, until the dark day, February 26, 2021 when government introduced statutory Instrument 50 and 51 of 2021," he said.

Through SI 50/2021, government set aside 12 940 hectares of the Chilonga land for purported production of lucerne grass and ordered eviction of all people in occupation of any part of that land.

SI 51/2021 declared that the land above ceased to be part of Chiredzi communal land.

While SI 50 was repealed by SI72A/2021, and removed the threat of immediate eviction, the Chilonga people are now on land that has already been taken by the state through SI51

Richard says despite the threat of being unable to farm, "I am losing income even from my well-digging business.

"No one is now prepared to invest in digging a well when they do not know what the future holds," he lamented

"Government should just leave us on our land," said another villager who spoke on condition of anonymity as the villagers have been threatened for speaking to the media and civic society organisations.

"We have relied on this land for centuries. We do not get enough rain, but we have become used to our environment and know how to make use of it and eke out a living.

"We do not get any government support even when other areas get relief aid, we do not get anything, but we have been contend with it.

"We have learnt to work with the little we have and make the most of it and it has worked for years. Why does government want to disrupt our lives," questioned the villager.

Zimbabwe Human rights Association Masvingo provincial person, Joel Hita urged government to listen to the Chilonga community.

"While the repealing of SI 50 provides relief to the affected villagers, it does not extinguish the threat of displacements for the Shangaan community because the land is no longer communal land," Hita said.

"If government and the investor are genuine on the development mantra, they should listen to the community and make them grow the lucerne."

In a statement released last Thursday, the Civil Society Working Group against Displacements, noted that the Chilonga evictions were not divorced from the broader trends of the displacements that have been experienced.

The group called on the government to "immediately and permanently" withdraw SI51/2021 and start a process of reviewing the communal land holding laws.

The Chilonga land has been earmarked for a lucerne grass farming project by Dendairy, a private milk producer.

Source - the standard