Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba is in another farm eviction storm — this time involving 21 villagers who allege she is encroaching into their land to expand her Penhalonga farm.
They claim to have assisted her family wrestle the farm from its former white owner and even showing her the farm’s boundary with Zengeni Village whose part she now claims to be hers. The villagers were this week issued with seven-day eviction notices giving them until March 19 to leave the land or face arrest in the messy fallout.
“You are violating section 3 of the Gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act Chapter 20:20; Gazetted Land Act in that you are occupying the said property (Zengeni Farm) without lawful authority,” reads part of the generic letter which was stamped on November 13, 2018 but filled in on March 12, 2019.
They have, however, been already on trial at Mutasa Magistrates’ Courts for the “illegal occupation” of the farm, having had a civil suit against them withdrawn as the Lands ministry took over the long-standing dispute following her ministerial appointment.
The villagers, who are all self-confessed Zanu PF supporters with some being members of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Collaborators Association (Ziliwaco), say they are now a laughing stoke of opposition members and were also being chided by the white farmer whom they say is also waiting for his turn to reclaim the farm.
“We feel betrayed by someone we helped to settle in our area as a neighbour and now we are being mocked for bringing this on ourselves. “Even the white commercial farmer would not have encroached into our village like what the minister has done,”
Ownered Zengeni, one of the affected villagers, said.
He said they have long been allocated land in Nyamukwarara where there are no roads or amenities with dozens of children’s education set to be disrupted.
“There are so many anomalies in how our case is being handled.
“How could they have allocated us land before the criminal trial at Mutasa Magistrates’ Courts is even concluded?” Zengeni queried.
Gwaradzimba’s aide and family member said the families were squatters who had encroached onto the minister’s property but the villagers claim she applied for an extension of her farm to encompass their village.
“Those people are settled on the minister’s farm and we have documentation to prove that,” the family representative said referring all questions to the Lands ministry. Zengeni claims the affected villagers used to be contracted by the Gwaradzimba family to work on their farm before they decided to take over their land in the farm extension.
“We used to be very good neighbours when they initially moved on to the farm but they were to later decide to use their positions of authority to kick us out and take over the whole land,” a miffed Zengeni said.