Thousands of poor smallholder farmers who were haphazardly resettled by Zanu (PF) politicians are likely to become homeless following a government deadline for them to move off the plots they are occupying.
Investigations by The Zimbabwean have revealed that the Ministry of Lands has ordered the resettled families, some of who have been at their current plots for more than five years, to leave by May 31.
A committee set up by government has been carrying out a nationwide land audit. This has now recommended that the settlers be moved by month-end, but the affected families have nowhere to go.
“Disaster is looming. The evictions will take place throughout the country, even though the times will vary. The politicians are anxious to see how the evicted people will react because there is a danger that they may cause strife,” said an official in the ministry.
Kizito Chivamba, the Zanu (PF) MP for Chiundura constituency in the Midlands province, which is affected by the looming mass evictions, confirmed that the ministry was ordering people out. Other MPs, mostly from the ruling party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the evictions would be countrywide. He said the villagers were told to harvest their crops and start moving before the deadline.
“I am aware that the DA (district administrator), lands officers, other members of the lands committee are moving around with the police notifying people of the impending evictions. There are people who were resettled in unsuitable areas and without following proper procedures – these are the ones who are being targeted for eviction. Some of them were given land in areas reserved for pastures,” Chivamba said in an interview.
Close to a thousand households from his constituency in the Indiva area are likely to be affected by the planned forced removals. The settlers came from different parts of the country and were given the plots in 2008 as an enticement to vote for Zanu (PF) during that year’s general elections. Others followed in subsequent years.
Affected plot holders who were interviewed said local Zanu (PF) leaders asked them to pay amounts ranging from $60 to $100 for the land. Some paid using their cattle as they did not have the cash.
“There are more than 800 families who were resettled in Indiva, but we have been told that we must go wherever we came from by the end of the month. They threatened to bring soldiers and Black Boots (anti-riot police) if we don’t obey the instruction,” said Mike Scotch, 53.
He added that Zanu (PF) won the last elections resoundingly in the area, with MDC-T getting negligible votes as the people had been advised that failure to vote for the ruling party would result in their eviction from the plots allocated to them.
“When we came here, the politicians told us all was in order and we would never be removed. Now that they have our votes, they are turning their backs on us. When we asked them whether they would find alternative places to go, they said we should return to where we came from.
“We don’t know where will put our livestock and the property we have accumulated over the years. The notice we have been given is too short,” said Scotch, originally from Shurugwi in the same province.
Sources from the lands ministry said lands committee members and officers were travelling around the country in the company of traditional leaders addressing the illegally resettled people, but were not entertaining any queries from them.
The president of the chiefs’ council, Fortune Charumbira, has reportedly joined in some of the tours that also included going to communal villages warning traditional leaders of the looming evictions and the need for them to take back the affected families.
Jealous Sibanda, 47, another smallholder farmer, originally from Binga, said relocating was almost impossible.
“Where will I put my school-going children and members of the extended family who live with me? I can’t go back to Binga, so government must be flexible about these evictions. We are Zanu (PF) supporters and we mustn’t be treated like this,” said Sibanda.
He said about three quarters of the children attending Mandindindi Primary School were from resettled households. “If we go, the school will be abandoned and this means the teachers will have to be moved to other schools. All this will happen close to a month after schools re-opened and it means many things will be disturbed,” he added.
He claimed Chivamba had advised them to approach the courts to recover their money, but the MP, who they accused of neglecting the constituency, denied ever addressing them.
Resettled farmers from the Chiltern communal lands in Shurugwi South have also been given the May 31 notice to move, being accused of having settled on grazing land.
But sources said no such notice had been given in neighbouring Chirimanzu-Zibagwe constituency, where Auxilia Mnangagwa, wife of the vice president, has recently been elected as the MP.
Douglas Mombeshora, the lands minister, did not call back as promised by his secretary. Zanu (PF) has used land as bait to catch voters from 2000 when it embarked on a fast track redistribution exercise, purportedly to give land to the masses.Post published in: News