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Zimbabwe govt mass evictions raise dust

by Staff reporter
11 Feb 2024 at 21:05hrs | Views
HUMAN rights lawyers have lobbied Members of Parliament (MPs) to push for the repeal of the Communal Lands Act amid the mass eviction of people accused of illegally occupying state land across Zimbabwe.

Thousands of villagers are staying in the open after they were given a seven-day ultimatum by the courts to vacate their homes in areas such as Masvingo, where they are deemed occupying state land.

The government says the villagers acquired the land through illegal sales by village heads.

Some villagers are resisting the evictions while arguing that it was their ancestral land that they have occupied since independence.

The affected villagers are being evicted under a grand operation dubbed, ‘No to Land Barons' that will see at least 13 000 illegally settled families being booted out in Masvingo Province alone..

As of January 21, 364 individuals had been arrested across Masvingo, according to government reports, which claim that there are approximately 3,000 illegal settlers in the region.

Last month, Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka revealed plans to evict all those living illegally on state land that includes areas reserved for agriculture.

In January, a total of 800 families from Norton were saved from eviction by the High Court that issued an order blocking government officials who claimed to have been sent by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Association director Dzikamai Bere said lawyers were pushing for the repeal of the Communal Lands Act under which the evictions are being instituted.

"The Communal Lands Act is a colonial legislation which says the land belongs to the president," Bere said.

"These evictions are not new under the new dispensation, but they show the anti-right approach that the new dispensation has pursued. "Government has been prioritising the elite and not the ordinary people.

"They are doing the same to the Chjilonga or Chisumbanje where they destroyed homes to pave the way for the Green Fuel project."

Bere said the evictions violated various constitutional provisions, including the right to shelter as the victims have been left homeless.

"They are removing people for business and political interest and the colonial legislation is anti-people," he said.

"Itis very shameful for a liberation movement that fought against a colonial government to perpetuate colonial legislation designed to oppress the natives, especially as we prepare to celebrate 44 years of independence.

"We have already begun to conscientise the Members of Parliament on the need to repeal the colonial legislation."

A community-based organisation in Masvingo Communities in Action Platform (CAP) said it was overwhelmed by calls for intervention from victims of eviction especially in the past two weeks.

CAP programmes manager Kudzai Walter Mushave said the organisation was assisting some of the victims who were evicted from where they had been staying for the past four decades.

"Some of the victims have participated in more than four elections," Mushave said.

"Records at hand also show that some had acquired the land soon after independence.

"We are advocating on their behalf that there should be alternative land availed before they are evicted.

"We have approached the court to stop the evictions."

The majority of the affected villagers have been given a seven-day ultimatum to vacate or be forcibly removed.

But the government yesterday said there was no turning back on the evictions.

Lands and Agriculture Deputy minister Davis Marapira said most of the affected victims acquired their land illegally.

"All of us have a rural home and for people to take advantage and say we can build illegally so that the government can regularise — it is unacceptable," Marapira told The Standard.

"The minister said no more regularisation of illegal settlers because if we do so, tomorrow we will find new illegal settlers.

"Anything wrong should be treated accordingly."

Marapira scoffed at claims by the eviction victims that the government was treating them unfairly after they voted for the ruling party.

In Masvingo, the ruling party secured a clean sweep in the province.

"Zimbabweans should leave politics from government programmes," he said.

"There is nothing to do. Politics should be separated. I never encouraged people to settle illegally for them to vote for Zanu-PF.

"You cannot do an illegal deed and thereafter you say it's because we voted. Let's be civilised.

"That one is not even an argument to put across."

Marapira said the victims were illegal settlers.

"There is only one settler who settles the people, it's the president and he has the power to offer the land," he said.

"Was there a 100% voter turnout? Who knows whether the illegal settlers voted or not?"

At the turn of the millennium the regime of the late Robert Mugabe embarked on a violent land reform programme that saw the displacement of over 4000 white Zimbabwean commercial farmers and thousands of their workers.

Subsequent audits revealed that some Zanu-PF elites helped themselves to multiple farms despite the government's policy of one family one farm.

Source - the standard