By Staff Reporter
MDC Alliance has lashed out at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government for plans to evict thousands of villagers from their long-held land in Chiredzi.
Local government minister July Moyo last year gazetted 12 940 hectares earmarked for commercial lurcene grass production by businesspeople with close links to Mnangagwa.
The move will see the displacement of 12 538 families from Chiredzi East and South.
Kwekwe based Dendairy Managing Director, Darren Coetzee and business partner Paul Kruger (Managing Director of Agrico), who are believed to be minister Moyo’s allies and business partners, are into Lurcene farming in Kwekwe and have been making manoeuvres to start a similar project in Chiredzi.
Lucerne grass is on demand for the export market and Chiredzi was deemed an ideal place for its growth given high temperatures in the area.
Authorities view the project as a national initiative that will help the country generate foreign currency and contribute to the development of the national herd and dairy industry through provision of forage and feed, but the affected families are not happy with the project.
According to Statutory Instrument 50 of 2021 [CAP. 20:04 Communal Land (Setting Aside of Land) (Chiredzi) Notice, 2021 a supplement in the Zimbabwean Government Gazette dated February 26, 2021- the villagers are ordered to depart permanently with all their property from the said land by the date of publication of the notice, unless they have rights of use or occupation to the land in terms of section (9)(1) of the Communal Land Act [Chapter 20:04].
However, in a statement, MDC Alliance secretary for local government Sesel Zvidzai said government has displaced people without compensation.
“This is not the first time that government has arbitrarily evicted villagers without compensation or the provision of suitable alternative shelter and livelihoods.
“Families that were forcibly displaced over a decade ago to make way for the Tokwe Mukosi dam and are currently living in squalor at Chingwizi without necessary settlement infrastructure such as schools, clean water, clinics, dip tanks or proper shelter.
“It has been a decade since the government displaced the people of Chingwizi.
“They are living under uninhabitable conditions with no sustainable livelihoods. This callous approach to people’s land rights and cultural heritage should never be repeated,” said Zvidzai.
He said MDC Alliance stood with the affected villagers.
“We stand with the people of Chilonga. We condemn the proposed eviction. S.I. 50 of 2021 is unconstitutional, invalid and of no force and effect as it violates section sections 71, 74, 51 and 53 of the Constitution.
“This model of rural development is anti-poor and inhumane. It should be rejected and resisted.
“The authorities should be sensitive to the needs of the poor and implement policies that put the people first.
“We call for investment models that lead to shared prosperity and community development. We demand that the rights to dignity, to property and the freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as well as freedom from arbitrary eviction of the Chilonga people be respected unreservedly.”