By Bulawayo Correspondent
VILLAGERS in Esigodini district ward four in Matebeleland South have accused their local chief of grabbing vast swarths of communal grazing land and turning it into his farm.
Villagers who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com accused Chief Mthonzima, born Stanley Gwebu, of converting the land which government handed over to the community after it was seized from a white farmer during the land reform programme to personal use.
“Our chief wants to turn our communal pasture into his own land. The community was given this land by the government when the white farmer was kicked out of the property during the land reform programme. In fact, the farm has been our ancestral land for a very long time. We do not know on what basis is the chief now claiming ownership of the farm,” one of the disgruntled villagers said.
The villager said the community pulled together their resources and bought fence for the grazing area which is adjacent to the gold rich Mzingwane river.
One of the headmen in the ward, Nkosi Moyo confirmed the dispute between the villagers and the Chief.
“Yes, I have heard rumours that the Chief want to take our grazing land. The community was given the land for grazing purposes when the white farmer was chased away from the property. We are surprised that the chief who is supposed to protect us now want to grab our grazing land,” Moyo said.
“The chief claims that he was given the land by the district coordinator. That land belongs to our community, and we want our children and grand- children to benefit from that land as well,” Moyo said.
The villagers also said they strongly suspect that the chief want to carry out mining activities on the land.
“We suspect that the chief want to carry out mining activities at the property because the area is very rich in gold deposits,” another villager said.
The villagers said they have tried in vain to seek the assistance of Esigodini Rural District Council (RDC) through the local councillor Jethro Mambande who is also Esigodini RDC chairperson.
The villagers said they have also unsuccessfully tried to engage their local MP Levy Mayihlome.
Mambande had not yet responded to questions send to him while Mayihlome’s mobile was not reachable.