HRW questions displacement of Chingwizi villagers

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international watchdog, has questioned the circumstances leading to the displacement of over 20, 000 people currently living at Chingwizi transit camp in Nuanetsi Ranch, Masvingo.

Chingwizi transit camp in Nuanetsi Ranch, Masvingo.
Chingwizi transit camp in Nuanetsi Ranch, Masvingo.

In a report entitled “Zimbabwe: 20 000 Relocated to Ruling Party Farm:

Flood Victims Face Loss of Food Aid Unless They Grow Sugarcane”, the organisation alleged that the villagers were relocated to Chingwizi camp as part of plans by Zanu (PF) stalwarts to get cheap labour for the ethanol project in Chisumbanje.

The HRW Southern Africa Director Tiseke Kasambala said: “These 3,000 families have been displaced under questionable circumstances and dumped in a place where their only alternative is to be cheap labour for Zimbabwe’s ruling party.”

The HRW accused the Zanu (PF) led government of indirectly forcing the displaced villagers at Chingwizi camp into providing cheap labour for their sugar cane farming at the ethanol project which they said was owned by Zanu (PF).

The project is a joint venture between Billy Rautenbach, a multi-millionaire with links to Zanu (PF), and the government.

Read the report by the HRW: “The government is taking advantage of the displaced families and threatening to deny them food aid.”

The organisation called on government to compensate and provide avenues for voluntary resettlement of over 3, 000 families who are currently living in tents at Chingwizi transit camp.

“These families have a right to compensation for their property and to voluntary resettlement elsewhere in the country, to earn a living as they see fit,” said HRW.

The organisation alleged that in February 2014, the Zimbabwe army relocated over 20, 000 people from the flooded Tokwe-Mukosi dam basin to a camp on a sugar cane farm near the ethanol project.

Displaced residents and dam project workers contend that the floods were artificially induced and authorities flooded the area to forcibly evict people without compensation and hire them as low-paid workers on the sugar cane farm.

“On May 10, ten ZANU (PF) ministers, including the local government, Ignatius Chombo and finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa, visited the camp accompanied by armed police in an unsuccessful attempt to get the displaced families to accept relocation without compensation to one-hectare plots, where they have been told they must grow sugar cane or lose food aid,” read the HRW statement.

Donor support to the displaced villagers has been abused in the past and Masvingo police and provincial officials responsible for distributing food, blankets and clothing are alleged to have diverted some of the aid for their personal aggrandizement.

Zanu (PF) could not be reached for a comment at the time of publishing.

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