Rainy season woes for evicted Gokwe families

As parts of Zimbabwe this week started receiving the first rains, more than 100 families in Chemagora area, in Gokwe South, are still living by the road side, weeks after they were evicted from a nearby farm after being classified as squatters.

The government finally moved onto the after the July 31 elections, forcing them off a farm they now regarded as their home after 13 years of residence.

The villagers claimed that they benefited from the land reform exercise at the height of the farm invasions period after being vetted by the area’s traditional leaders and the government’s district lands committee.

But in a recent surprise turn of events, they found themselves arraigned before a court of law for trespassing and putting up illegal structures at a farm said to belong to one Farai Magadzire. Magadzire could not be reached for comment.

Provincial magistrate Taurai Manwere fined some of them $100 each for the crime and ordered that they be evicted without delay. The farmers had resisted an earlier ruling delivered in September 2012 by a Gokwe magistrate ordering them out of the Chemagora. Police moved in last month, tore down shacks and forcibly evicted the group.

A Zanu (PF) official from the provincial lands committee said: “As it is now, no resolution was passed (by the committee) regarding the plight of the affected families. We are yet to meet and come up with the solution to that issue,” he said. “I am not sure whether he is responsible for all this confusion, but I am sure that these people knew that what they were doing was illegal.”

Cotten Ndlovu, the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, MDC political liaison officer for Midlands, said sanitary conditions at the new makeshift settlement were deplorable as there were ablution facilities. “The villagers and their livestock are posing a potential danger to travellers using the Gokwe- Kwekwe road. Because they are now homeless, there is urgent need to address their plight because the rainy season is fast approaching,” said Ndlovu.

Ndlovu said the JOMIC team was accessing the exact numbers of evicted families and trying to find ways of addressing the situation because a potential health hazard was looming.

“They are living in the open and mothers and children bear the brunt of harsh weather conditions. They need alternative accommodation as soon as possible,” he said.

It rained in parts of Zimbabwe last week, heightening anxieties among farmers who have yet to receive inputs for the new season. The government says it is still negotiating with potential funders for agriculture support.

“The evictions are timely because they have been effected a month after elections,” said an MDC- T official in the area. “It is an example of manipulation of the people’s vote. Now that people are in power, they are backtracking on their promises.”

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