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Dendairy must desist from Chilonga land grab: CNRG



A NATURAL resource watchdog, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) has demanded that Dendairy (Pvt) Ltd publicly renounce its overtures to take over Chilonga Community Lands, while urging the government to respect the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of local communities in line with international law.


Woes are continuing to mount for the villagers in the Chilonga area od Chiredzi district, who are facing renewed efforts to evict them from their ancestral land, to make way for Dendairy’s controversial irrigation project to cultivate cattle fodder.

The land in question has been inhabited by the Hlengwe Xangani (Chilonga) Community since way before 1890, downstream of Tugwi- Mukosi Dam. Due to abundant water, the government has earmarked over 12 000 hectares for an irrigation project.

Recently, Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka, minister of State for Masvingo Ezra Chadzamira and minister of Presidential Affairs Lovemore Matuke visited Mutomani Business Centre in Chilonga under heavily armed police guard to push forward the eviction.

 Villagers protested by refusing to sit on chairs or enter a tent which was set for them.

As previously reported by The NewsHawks, the villagers even refused to eat food which was prepared for them as a way of expressing anger about the lucerne programme.

Tempers flared when Chadzamira threatened villagers by telling them that female donkeys resist males by kicking but they end up being pregnant, meaning that even if the communities resist, the programme will go ahead.

Consultations with community representatives stalled as local people are adamant that the government’s priorities are unclear as they demand assurances that they will not be relocated from their homes.

CNRG said the government has to respect the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of local communities in line with international law.

“Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) says the threat of evictions remains for Chilonga villagers despite the government repealing Statutory Instrument (SI) 50/2021 which had legalised their displacement,” the CNRG said in a statement.

“At the height of the dispute when the government backtracked from evicting villagers, CNRG called on the Parliament of Zimbabwe to repeal the Communal Lands Act and introduce a land law that gives Zimbabweans on communal lands security of tenure.

“CNRG also calls on government to respect the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of local communities in line with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Dendairy (Pvt) Ltd should publicly renounce its interest in acquiring Chilonga Communal Lands.”

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right (ACHPR) in 2012 expanded the application of FPIC to cover communities for natural resource governance decision-making on the effects of domestic and foreign direct investment on land, water and related natural resources.

The principle of prior informed consent requires that communities affected by a project be adequately informed in a timely manner about development projects that have the potential to affect them.

Such communities should be given the opportunity to approve or reject a project prior to the commencement of operations.

Government critics see the Chilonga project as retrogressive, favouring Dendairy’s interests while undermining food security as productive land they use for growing food will now be for lucerne production.

There have been previous litigation attempts in 2021 to stop the controversial Dendairy-backed project which was dismissed by a High Court judge Joseph Mafusire on the basis that occupation of communal land is at the pleasure of the state.

The government in February 2021 planned to evict the villagers after it passed Statutory Instrument (SI) 50 of 2021 to set aside 12 940 hectares of communal land in their area for lucerne project by Dendairy.

Between February and March 2021, the government issued a series of Statutory Instruments which it later repealed with the main object of setting aside a tract of Communal land measuring 12940 to establish an irrigation scheme in Chiredzi District.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been under fire for sporadic, inhumane decisions that affect livelihoods and people’s right to personal security as well as access to land.

For instance, this year the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said it is representing 327 villagers from Mahachi area in Chipinge district, Manicaland province, who are facing eviction amid accusations of illegally settling in the area.

Hundreds of families could be rendered homeless following the government’s directive to evict people settled on state land in rural, peri-urban and urban areas as mass displacements continue to wreak havoc across the country.

Since January this year, the government has been rolling out “Operation No to Land Barons and Illegal Settlements”, which it says is aimed at combating illegal settlements.

More families have been displaced in Mutoko, with most families living at the mercy of granite mining companies who have been plundering the resource with government collusion.

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