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Environmentalism of the poor: The Chilonga Case



By Taona Denhere

ROB Nixon in his groundbreaking, thought provoking seminal work “Slow Violence and The Environmentalism of the Poor “ scholarly with intellectually dexterity argued that in global resources war, the environmentalism of the poor  took place when the vernacular or the indigenous landscape is forcibly dislocated, disrupted and subsequently colonized by an official landscape.

Thus a vernacular landscape is one informed  and structured by historical architecture of  textured maps.  

Which the communities have organically developed and sustained over generations. Thus, the map that is landmarked with names, routes and important ecological and surface geological features.

Accordingly, the vernacular landscape despite being neither monolithic nor undisputed, it however is an inalienable and essential socio-environmental ecology of the community.

Therefore it cannot be outsourced nor offshored  or desecrated as nonrenewable  resources. Conversely, an official landscape be it be driven by the government, NGOs, big capital or a toxic combination of any of them.

Nonetheless, it pays scant attention to the historicity of the maps that traversed the socioeconomic ecologies and topologies of vernacular landscapes.

Thus, it callously sought to redraw and demarcate the land in bureaucratic, externalizing and extractive driven fashion.

The Zimbabwean government dropped a bombshell when it issued a Statutory Instrument 50 of 2021.

Which inter alia  authorised the displacement  of  12500 Chilonga people of Chiredzi from their ancestral and vernacular land. In order to pave the way for corporate dairy company DenDairy to conduct agro-business of growing lucerne for its dairy cows.

This arbitrary weaponization of law against the micro-minorities of Chilonga people by the big government in cahoots with the big capital demands us to analyse these issues under the prism of environmentalism of the poor.

Thus, this opinion piece will attempt to spotlight and expose the inhuman, illegal and callous nature of the government supported neo extractivism of Chilonga ecology.

It also made a case for the revolt from below by citizens against big government and big business plunder and desecration of the survival-hood of Chilonga peasantry.

Vicious circle of spatial displacement
 The Chilonga society consists predominantly  of  Shangaan people who are the  micro-minorities and have suffered an endemic circle of state sanctioned displacement and dislocation from their ancestral lands since time immemorial.

Thus, they were first uprooted from their vernacular ecology in 1968.

When the colonial government created Gonarezhou as a game park and nature reserve. Furthermore, between the years 1928 to 1963, there was another internal displacement of Shangaan people in order to create the present day Triangle sugar plantations. 

Suffice it to say that, between the years 1956 to 1959 another round of state sanctioned eviction against  Chilonga people took place in order to pave way for creation of Mkwasine and Hippo Valley estates.

Therefore, these previous dislocation  coupled with next intended eviction and displacement, which the government of Zimbabwe has legislated through SI. 50 of  2021.

Has inevitably created intergenerational trauma, anxieties and insecurities among Chilonga people.

Consequently, it has a domino effect of producing spatial amnesia. That is, the Chilonga community under the guise and promise of socioeconomic development are periodically displaced and imaginatively dislocated and removed from place and time .

Thereby, disentangle them from the notion of both national future and national memory. That is they are being dehistoricized and memoricide  from their socioeconomic, politico and cultural subalternity.

Crony buccaneering
The administration of Emmerson Mnangagwa socioeconomic trajectory and its socioeconomic value based system or lack thereof, has been underpinned and sustained by neoliberal compradorism.

That is, since November 2017, there has been an institutionalized inceostous and extractive relationship between the neopatrimonial Zanu PF government and the arriviste corporate buccaneers.

Accordingly,this crony-capitalism has led Zanu PF government to give undeserved preferential treatment in the form of corporate tax cuts to transnational neoliberal behemoths like the Chinese owned Huawei,  and the Russian owned  Great Dyke Investments.

Whilst on the extreme side, the Zanu PF government has been increasingly squeezing the blood out of the financially malnourished and economically emaciated ordinary Zimbabwean taxpayer, through arbitrary tax increases.

Which in the common parlance are known as Mthuli Ncube 2%. Thus, the Zanu PF government provides benevolent socialism for the rich transational conglorements and on the other hand provides parasitic malevolent capitalism to the ordinary poor Zimbabwean taxpayers.

Accordingly, the DenDairy who are the un-derseved beneficiary of the Statutory Instrument 50. of 2021, whose founders and owners are the Coetzee family.

Have a hand in glove cronyist  and an extractive relationship with Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa has been the  bag carrier and the go between man for the Coetzee family.

On 13th January 2016 Mnangagwa presided over the memorial service of  Estelle Theresa Coetzee at Kwekwe Club.

Where he infamously  exposes his close guarded secret that, through his proximity to higher echelons of power.

He has acted as a buffer zone and protected a lot of white farmers from getting their land reposses through the fast track land reform.

And that the Coetzee family are the beneficiaries of his proximity to power and benevolence. Therefore, the fact that DenDairy has been granted the permission to engage in neo-extractivism through the recolonization of the vernacular landscape and ecosystem of Chilonga people is not by accident but rather by design.

The section 74 of The Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013 provides that:  “No person  may be evicted from their home  demolished without an order of court made after considering all the relevant  circumstances”.

Coupled with the fact the section 71 (3) provides that “no  individual shall be compulsorily be deprived of his or her property”.

Therefore the SI. 50 of 2021 is an unconstitutional and arbitrary form of legal instrument.

The insensitive and arbitrary nature of the Zanu PF government has also been demonstrated by the way the Chilonga peasants have been treated from the very beginning.

According to some video clips on social media, Chilonga peasants confirm that they were never consulted, engaged nor their view solicited by both the government and DenDairy about the proposed lucerne farms in their communal lands.

They said they were just ambushed by prospectors who just started surveying and dermacating their lands.

It is abundantly clear that the Zanu PF government by invoking the unconstitutional provisions of SI. 50 of 2021 is engaged in both class lawfare and class warfare against the deinstitutionalized subalterns of Chilonga area.

The law is being instrumentalized and weaponised to arbitrarily  evict and dispossess the downtroddenized denziens of Chingola their means of subsistence, means of production and means of survivalism.

Therefore, it is clear that both the Zanu PF government and DenDairy are engaging in a big capital vested interests hegemonic expansionary initiatives of winner eats it all and eats it now against the Chilonga people.

Rather than engaging in a win-win contractual relationship with Chilonga people. Whereby, through consultative bottom up approach both DenDairy and government would empower and provide equipment and agricultural materials to the Chilongas.

Thereby, enable them to  grow the lucerne grass themselves and sell it to the DenDairy. That could be a proposition that could benefit both parties.

The proposed agriculturization of Chilonga subalternity by Den Dairy in cahoots with the Zanu PF government is a form of agro-despotism and agro-capitalism.

Accordingly agribusiness of agro-capitalism inevitably has a disastrous effect on the socioeconomic and cultural interests of the Chilonga peasantry as well as the populace inhabiting those rural areas.

Therefore, as we witnessed from the tragic experiences of the government and big business supported dispossessions and dislocations of Marange peasants during the diamond rush of 2010 as well as the displacement occasioned by construction of Tokwe Mukosi dam.

That, neoliberal driven neoextractivism big moneyed “developmental trajectory” spawn and produce developmental refugees. For instance, at Chigwizi camp where the disposable people from Tokwe Mukwosi are settled.

Nonetheless, they live in squalor and abject poverty and their living conditions akin to 19th century concentration camps or 14th century slave dungeons.

Additionally, the disposable subalterns of Marange diamonds, they live in lonely islands of penury, destitution and poverty whilst surrounded by an ocean of rich diamond extractive minerals.

Therefore,the intended  displacements and dispossession of Chilonga people in favour of DenDairy will automatically spawn  impoverished developmental  refugees in the similar fashion as those at Chigwizi camp or in Marange area.

Bustop TV, an underground organic citizen journalism entity, has produced a brilliant ten minute documentary chronicling the trials and tribulations of the discounted casualties of Chilonga areas.

In one of the interview clips one of the villagers clearly spelt out how Chilonga community and its agricultural land is a self sustaining, income generating ecosystem.

That is they have built economic sustaining supply chains with Delta Beverages and Ingwebu Breweries where they sell their commercial barley and sorghum on every single harvest season.

Surely, it beggars belief why the Zanu PF government would want to destroy such a self-sustaining socioeconomic and cultural oasis in favour of  corporate interests of DenDairy.

Citizen agency & pushback from below
Politics of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) have their historicity and foundations in Apartheid South Africa and continues to be enforced aganist the Isreali apatheid occupation of Gaza Palestine.

Thus, a disparate progressive coalition of businesses, citizens, politicians, civic organisations, religious organisations, feminist groups, environmental organisations and etc.

Continue to use their organisational, mobilizational, human and financial power to lobby the progressive international community to boycott, disengage, divest and sanction apartheid Israel.

Therefore, they have been calls by certain sections of the Zimbabwean community that Zimbabweans need to have a BDS movement against the exploitative, parasitic and vulturistic corporate behaviour and conduct of the DenDairy.

That is, Zimbabwe must vote with their pockets against the immoral behaviours and conduct of DenDairy.

Thus a consumer boycott of DenDairy products. That is, since the DenDairy are making the discounted casualties of Chingola uncomfortable, it’s also the higher time the progressive citizenry makes DenDairy uncomfortable.

Zimbabweans have experimented before with the domesticated version of BDS. When the militant and radical Zimbabwe National Student Association (Zinasu) spearheaded the “Boycott Impala Car Rentals” campaign.

After the Impala Car Rental company was implicated in the abduction and torture of 22 year old Tawanda Muchehiwa who was journalist student.

There is no doubt a revolt against corporate criminality of DenDairy will have a tremendous impact on pushing back against the proposed inhumane dispossessions and expropriations of the ancestral lands of Chilonga people.

Business by their very nature operates on profit making basis, therefore the prospect of loss making and bad imagery on DenDairy is a powerful, nonviolent civil disobedience leverage tool that progressive Zimbabweans can activate into action.

Crucially, the deinstitutionalized subalterns of Chilonga can also metamorphose  into an organised, disciplined, militant, focused non violent critical mass of what is known as resource rebels.

Thus, they can organically create their grassroots civic movement that will be focused on defending their birthrights, human rights and constitutionally enshrined rights against arbitrarily dispossessions and dislocations of their livelihoods and survival-hoods by big capital and big government.

They can employ advocacy, peaceful protests, petitions and litigious ways to push back against DenDairy encroachments into their sources of means of production, means of subsistence and means of survival-hood.

We have  seen how resources rebels and environmentally disenfranchised have mobilized repeatedly against memory loss, refusing to witness their long-term livelihoods pulverised into oblivion. 

Whether through state sanctioned violence,or multinational big business avarice. A good case study and example is how the venerable and militant Ken Saro Wiwa organised, educated and conscientize the disposable subalterns and the micro-minorities of Niger Delta to stand up and push back against corporate rapacity of Anglo Dutch Shell.

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