Monday 19 April 2021
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newsday - 2 month ago

Editorial Comment: Chiredzi forced evictions raise a stink

IN the history of mankind, land has been at the centre of conflict and war. In Zimbabwe, land was the prime reason the black majority waged the liberation struggle against the white settler regime of Ian Smith. The recent move by government to evict over 12 500 villagers from Chilonga to make way for a lucerne grass project for a dairy farmer cannot escape challenge. Dendairy, a private milk producer, is said to be eyeing approximately 10 000 hectares of arable land for the lucerne project meant for local and international markets. Quite evidently, these evictions will disrupt villagers’ livelihoods and cultural practices, and will deprive them of identity, indigenous knowledge, land rights and other human rights. Looking at evictions that have been effected by government in the past, Zimbabwe has no history of compensating evictees. It has become the norm for government and those linked to it to displace people turning them into destitutes for business to make a fortune out of their ancestral land. Billy Rautenbach, who has a controlling stake in Green Fuel, forced thousands of villagers off their ancestral land to pave way for the company’s project. Before the Green Fuel project, Chisumbanje had thriving cotton and maize farms that sustained local communities. But today they are a forgotten lot, living on the breadline. When the diamond hype hit Marange, villagers in the gem-rich area of Manicaland also faced a similar predicament. The government like always justified the evictions, saying the project was of national importance. Similar evictions are looming in Hwange where villagers are being kicked off their land to pave way for Chinese coal miners. Parliament has in its oversight role questioned the Executive decisions, but it would seem, the latter always overrides other arms of the State. On Wednesday, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who is leader of business in Parliament, braggingly told bemused MPs that “government “can do what it feels if there is a national project to take place, anyone can be removed”. Not that people are against national development, but more often than not, these projects benefit individuals. Cyclone Idai victims are still in tents and are living on NGO handouts. The government has failed to provide alternative decent houses for them. Then government tries to hoodwink the nation into believing that plans are underway to make more than 12 000 Chilonga villagers live comfortably after relocation. We have a government that is predatory and preys on citizens. Government should desist from prioritising the interests of capital at the expense of the people whose welfare is its sole responsibility. We call upon the Executive to respect the other arms of the State such as Parliament so that it plays its oversight role without fear or favour.


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