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Chilonga villagers protest land grab threat

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HUNDREDS of villagers in the Chilonga area of Chiredzi district held a demonstration at Chief Chilonga’s homestead on Sunday, protesting the government’s continue manoeuvres to proceed with the setting up of a lucerne grass-farming project by a private company, Dendairy.

MORRIS BISHI

The villagers, who came in seven trucks, wanted their voices heard by the authorities on the day the chief was scheduled to meet community leaders and government officials to discuss the project.

The chief was however attending other meetings in Masvingo on the day, forcing the postponement of the meeting.

Villagers later force marched the chief’s aide to the shops where they forced him to address the gathering over the issue. But the gathering nearly degenerated into chaos as the angry villagers showed no desire to accept the project which is set to leave them homeless.

Chief Chilonga, born John Ben, confirmed toThe NewsHawks that there was a demonstration.

However, he said there is a need for members of the community to get all information about the project before people can turn down or accept the proposed scheme. He said the first people who came to the area gave the community unfriendly information which is making it difficult for the locals to accept the information coming to them now.

“I was not home on the day, but l was supposed to meet community leaders and government officials to discuss the issue of lucerne in our area. Unfortunately, l was invited to attend a meeting in Masvingo, but information about the postponement of the meeting was not properly circulated in my area and villagers came in numbers. I heard that they held a demonstration at my place against this Dendairy programme. The issue is people are bitter. They want information about this programme, they are relying on old information which talked about their relocation,” said Chief Chilonga.

A villager in Makhosiya area told The NewsHawks that the community is sticking to its position and is not prepared to budge.

He said the biggest challenge is that the community is not being told of places which will be affected first, making it difficult for them to trust anyone, including community leaders who are involved in the talks.

Chiredzi district development coordinator Lovemore Chisema told The NewsHawks that traditional leaders were attending a meeting in Masvingo last weekend and he was not aware of the meeting at Chief Chilonga’s homestead. He said consultative meetings are ongoing, but is not aware of when they will be held.

“I was not aware of the meeting in Chilonga, but what l know is that traditional leaders were attending a meeting in Masvingo. We are still seized with the Chilonga issue and consultative meetings are ongoing, but l am not aware of the exact dates when we will meet the community leaders or villagers,” he said.

A villager said: “The biggest issue is that a person named July Gevele was used as a point person by government and Dendairy and this angered the community since Gevele is neither a village head nor a chief. People are suspecting that this guy approved a place where a pilot project will be undertaken at Chambuta irrigation scheme and they are not happy with his involvement and his interests in this matter. The community is now suspecting anyone involved in this issue.”

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