Amnesty slams abuse of flood victims

President Robert Mugabe used violence, harassment and a deliberate restriction of humanitarian aid to coerce some 20,000 flood victims to resettle on tiny plots of land where the government plans to establish a sugar cane plantation, Human Rights Watch said in a report this week.

Dewa Mavhinga, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Dewa Mavhinga, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The report documents human rights violations suffered by people forced to evacuate their homes due to massive flooding in the Tokwe-Mukosi dam basin, Masvingo, in February 2014.

Some experts say the floods could have been avoided. The victims were given no choice but to accept one-hectare plots of land on a farm earmarked for growing sugar cane that has close links to the Mugabe’s ruling Zanu (PF) party.

“The Zimbabwean government has stopped at nothing to coerce 20,000 flood victims to accept a resettlement package that provides labour for a government project, but leaves the flood victims utterly destitute,” said Dewa Mavhinga, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Some of the flood victims were already slated for resettlement prior to the emergency, but had resisted moving without receiving fair compensation for their property. The government used violence and intimidation to quell protests, and restricted food distribution and health and education services to those who refused to accept government resettlement plans.

Under the government’s plans, they would be required to grow sugar cane on Nuanetsi Ranch, in the Mwenezi district of Masvingo province, to contribute to a government-owned ethanol project. They would not be permitted to grow other crops. They said the arrangement would leave them with no livelihood until the scheme was fully operational, expected to be in about seven years.

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