'Bitter' villagers appeal to Mugabe to reverse eviction and land sale
Displaced beneficiaries of the Mabula resettlement scheme in Zvishavane in the Midlands are asking President Robert Mugabe to protect them from being evicted from their land by senior Zanu-PF official Cephas Msipa and others.
The villagers were settled in Mabula by the government in 1983 and were issued with permanent leases, which they still hold.
But they were told by local government and lands ministry officials to vacate the land in 2011 because it had been incorporated into the Zvishavane town council.
The villagers have been battling the eviction in court, and have now appealed to Mugabe for assistance.They argue that they were not formally told of the land acquisition, as is required by law.
In their petition to Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora, which was copied to Mugabe’s office, the Anti-Corruption Commission and police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri, the villagers allege that local government and lands ministry officials, particularly Midlands chief lands officer Joseph Shoko, are corruptly selling the land from which they were evicted.
They claim that the scheme was formalised a long time ago and involved former Midlands governor Msipa. The original plan, they said, was for them to be resettled on Msipa’s farm, “which he had ditched because it was unusable”.
They then approached the high court to halt the eviction.
“After the high court order [in our favour], we were then reluctantly moved to De Beers Block 5B, after both parties reached a compromise.
“This partial relocation was done in November 2013, but Shoko and his team dumped us after realising that they had achieved their objectives,” the petition reads.
The villagers claim that after they were evicted, some government officials and senior police officers allocated themselves their land and some of it was sold to private contractors.
“We wonder how state land could be sold for a song like that at our expense. We were lawfully resettled by the government soon after independence and surely for Shoko to take our land like that is unfair?” the villagers said.
Describing themselves as bitter, they said they were abandoned following the eviction.
“We were thrown in the forest and left to die. There are no roads, clinics or schools, and limited safe water.”
They said they are constantly harassed by the police, adding that they have evidence that senior officials had also allocated their relatives parcels of land they had been evicted from.
“We therefore wait to hear from you, as we are suffering from these people who are abusing their office.”
The villagers said Msipa has also harassed them and claims to represent the new beneficiaries of the land.
Msipa confirmed that he had engaged the villagers and had “exchanged harsh words with the [villagers’] lawyer”, but said their relocation was legal.
“They were resettled there in the 1980s, but it was a mistake because all land which lies within a 15km radius from town is not supposed to be allocated for resettlement.
“The land is now part of the Zvishavane town council and has been allocated to private developers,” he said.
Msipa confirmed that the land the villagers had been allocated did not have all the necessary facilities, but said these would be provided in time.
“We settle people first then provide other things later. I am not sure what they want, because the developers built houses for them,” he said.
“Everything is above board. We have been meeting the villagers to explain what is going on together with the district administrator and land officials.”
In February this year, the villagers also got a court summons against some government officials after the officials again allegedly tried to evict them from De Beers Block 5B.
The villagers, who are all applicants in the high court matter, cited Zvishavane district administrator chief Collen Mapanzure, Shoko, the chief executive officer in the Runde rural district, the Zvishavane police commanding officer, the minister of lands, land reform and resettlement, the officer in charge of Zvishavane police, and ten other individuals as defendants.
According to the high court summons, the 24 villagers, are seeking an order barring senior police officers, top government officials and traditional leaders from evicting them or demolishing their houses at their current location and they are resisting being moved again.
“Problems started emerging recently after Shoko and his team decided to harass us after achieving their ill-gotten objectives, which forms part of our complaint today,” they wrote.
“We then suspected that there was high level of corruption which has the potential of putting the government’s reputation at stake.”
Shoko could not be reached for comment, but Msipa exonerated him and the other government officials from any wrongdoing.