Villagers confront Mugabe

HARARE - Relocated Tokwe-Mukorsi villagers have lashed President Robert Mugabe’s government, appealing to the nonagenarian to visit the Chingwizi transit camp urgently to witness first-hand the dire conditions at the Nuanetsi Ranch.

In a letter dated July 8, that also appealed for food and medicine to save the lives of thousands of people who were displaced by floods, representatives of the villagers said previous efforts to engage government ministers had hit a brick wall.

“We are appealing to you directly because many government ministers have repeatedly broken their promises to address our concerns.

“Your government has forgotten us. We have no freedom. We feel like people in prison. Your government is treating us like second class citizens and as if we are people with no rights at all,” the villagers said.

The Zimbabwe National Army last year relocated about 3 000 families from the flooded Tokwe-Mukorsi dam basin under controversial circumstances to a camp on a sugar cane farm.

The families were moved to the Chingwizi transit camp in Mwenezi district, about 150 kilometres away from where they used to live. The displaced people were not consulted about their relocation site, as required under international practice.

During their relocation to Nuanetsi Ranch, hundreds of families lost their valuable household property and livestock, while at Chingwizi camp, property that was left in the open for several months was also destroyed.

The camp is seriously overcrowded, with the only regular help to the villagers coming from international aid agencies who are providing potable water — although the aid workers readily admit that this is not enough for the entire Chingwizi population, raising serious health concerns.

“We do not have enough food and we are facing starvation. In the last six months, your government has distributed food only twice, giving each family 25 kg maize meal.

“Your government has forced us to settle on Nuanetsi Ranch but this place is not suitable for people to live.

“Despite promises, your government has failed to compensate many of us and allocate each family enough land for resettlement. Instead, each family was allocated one hectare plot of land only, on land whose ownership is contested,” the villagers letter to Mugabe said.

The contested land on which the villagers are being resettled is registered in the name of the Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ), an organisation that was founded by the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo in 1989, when it was then earmarked to produce bio-fuels in Zimbabwe’s hot and dry Lowveld region.

The villagers also highlighted in their letter how they had to walk many kilometres to get safe drinking water.

“Most of the old tents we use for shelter are now tattered, and we are unable to build permanent homes or grow crops because Masvingo minister Shuvai Mahofa told us we will soon be moved again to another place. But we do not know where to, or if that place will have essential services.

“Your Excellency, we ask you to come, as soon as possible to Nuanetsi Ranch to see for yourself the conditions we are living under,” the villagers said.

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