Over the past several years, these vast timber plantations had been virtually turned into small pockets of maize and rapoko fields. Police in riot gear descended on the illegal settlers and ordered them to leave the plantations before torching their huts. “I do not know why I am now being evicted from my piece of land, almost six years after I took the land from white people. The people who came to evict us here were very rough and ruthless. They destroyed out huts and I do not know where to start from,” said one of the settlers who identified himself as Ndabatei Domingo from chief Muusha area.
Domingo said the settlers were now stranded along the Mutare / Chimanimani highway with their earthly possessions which include chickens, goats and pots. About 2,500 hectares of Border Timbers estate had been invaded by the villagers who parcelled themselves pieces of land. In most instances, the invasions were coordinated by Zanu (PF) politicians.
The most affected estates were Zipras, Chinyai, Gwindigwe and Skyline where the settlers cleared all the timber, sold most of it for firewood and planted maize and rapoko. At Skyline the invaders also cleared all the indigenous trees, which the company had left for soil conservations purposes.
The invaders also caused regular veld fires, which destroyed most of the newly planted trees in plantations throughout the area.
The issue of the invaders had sharply divided the Chimanimani Rural District Council, with Zanu (PF) councillors strongly objecting to the evictions while the MDC councillors were pushing for the relocation of the invaders.
Last year the MDC–T councillor, Micah Chimene, moved a motion in council for the eviction of the invaders.
“My argument was that 70 percent of council revenue comes from Border Timbers and the council’s coffers were being crippled by the invasions,” said Chimene. When reached for comment a Border Timber senior official, Simbarashe Dube insisted that he wanted to first see the story before commenting on the issue.
Allied Timbers Chief Executive officer, Joseph Kanyekanye could not be reached on his mobile phone.