Farm evictions continue to affect children most

mother_and_childStandfirst: Whenever there is a crisis, children are the most affected. TAPIWA ZIVIRA visited Chegutu for an insight into the lives of children whose parents are the victims of Zimbabwes land reform programme. (Pictured:- A three-year-old child sits close one of the 27 people who were evicted from Twyfoord Farm in April. and they have been living at a garage

Clad in a visibly mucky grey cotton dress, the four-year-old girl stood in the doorway of the tobacco barn, her eyes earnestly fixed on the other little girl who was playing with a paper ball in the dingy passageway between the two barns. For months, these barns have served as homes for hundreds of farm workers evicted from Lionsvale Farm in Chegutu.

Upon seeing us, the little girl, who we later learnt is called Makanaka, – with a terrified look on her face – quickly slipped into the darkness of the alleyway.

Like every other child, Makanaka deserves a bright childhood, with toys, dolls, nursery school and other education materials so she can mentally and socially develop. Living in a dark sooty barn, which is almost a health hazard in itself, she sadly will never get that chance.

It is not only Makanaka whose future looks bleak because of displacement Hhundreds other farm workers children are enduring the bitter weather in makeshift shelters across the country.

The General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ) estimates that this year alone, about 500 children had to watch while their parents were forced out of their homes as farm seizures resurfaced soon after the inception of the coalition government.

GAPWUZ General Secretary Gertrude Hambira, who has dismissed the land reform as just another political gimmick, said her union believes in empowering farm workers with the aim of also empowering their families.

We feel that that the eviction of workers does not augur well for the psycho social development of their families and the governments silence on what becomes of the children after eviction convinces us that this process has never been people minded, she said.

In an earlier visit to Odzi where 38 families are marooned by the roadside after being unceremoniously ejected from Zanu (PF) official Mark Madiros Wilton Farm, it was no different. Scores of children constituted about half of the 114 people.

Childline Zimbabwe Director Tara Miller condemned the land reform for taking away the childrens confidence and trust in the police.

Adding that the development of children strives on stability Miller said: Will they gain trust in the police to protect them if they are the same who evict them under the land reform policy?

Miller, whose organisations works closely with the government ministries in supporting abused and neglected children, said she supported the formation of a Child Ministry and that her organisation also backs the concept of the Child Protection Committees (CPC) and the National Action Plan for the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVCs).

Each member of the CPCs, from provincial, district and ward level, is empowered to prevent child abuse. This ensures that the community takes part in child protection and that every individual has a role to play, she said.

African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect Director, Aaron Zinyanya, said while Zimbabwe was a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child, most of these conventions had been violated.

The governments child welfare policy has been widely condemned as it has failed to cater for the millions of orphaned children across the country.

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