By Alois Vinga
LOCAL Government Minister July Moyo has ordered thousands of villagers in Hwange rural to vacate the area before year-end to pave way for the expansion of the coal mining town.
The minister made the order through a Statutory Instrument.
The eviction notice targets villagers from Jembwe, Kasikili Jabula and Kanywambizi communal lands in Hwange rural.
“Any person using or occupying the land specified in the schedule otherwise than by virtue of a right held in terms of the Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21:05) is ordered to depart permanently with all his or her property from the said land by the 31st August of December 2020,” the SI reads.
Under the directive, only those who acquire the rights of use or occupation to the said land in terms of section 9 (1) the Communal Land Act Chapter (20:04) will be spared.
However, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) has challenged the decision by the government arguing the move violated the rights of the villagers.
Speaking to NewZimbabwe.com this week, CNRG media liaison officer, Simiso Mlevu said the proposed forced relocations and displacements were illegal.
“History has shown that our government does not value property rights because people who were moved from Marange to Arda Transau have not been compensated to date. They do not even have land for subsistence farming,” she said.
Mlevu said the CNRG feared the people of Hwange were likely to face the same predicament of being forced to move without proper property and livelihoods valuations that should lead to adequate compensation.
The resources rights group further argued the Communal Lands Act being used to evict the inhabitants was grossly unconstitutional because it vested too much authority in the office of the President and Local Government minister who could designate new use for land from time to time.
Mlevu said indigenous people have rights over their ancestral lands and it was a violation of their rights to allow the interests of capitalists to displace them.
She said such people have preserved the land since time immemorial and they should benefit from developmental projects which have been attracted by their ancestral land.
“What it means is that due to the Communal Lands Act, rural communities will exist as stateless citizens with no rights to where they live. We ask, how different is this administration from colonial authorities when it comes to protecting the citizens?” Mlevu asked.