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Manhize villagers face displacement



FAMILIES from Manhize’s Mushenjere Village who are settled at Inhoek Farm in Mvuma are facing displacement from land they have occupied for over 40 years, as concerns continue to be raised over weaknesses in the land tenure system that have seen mass evictions.


Chivhu and Mvuma communities, particularly those relocated to pave way for the establishment of the Dinson Iron and Steel Company (Disco)’s US$1.5 billion steel plant, say their lives have deteriorated despite the project being hyped up as a game changer in the nation’s economy, raising fears of another resource curse.

Disco, a local subsidiary of Chinese firm Tsingshan, has been touted as Africa’s largest integrated steel plant, but displacements have plunged victims into abject poverty, amid indications of serious food insecurity.

 Since 2021, more than 100 families from Manhize’s Mushenjere Village have lost their land to Disco’s operations, with the villagers, once self-sufficient, are now unable to produce enough food, according to a governance watchdog, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD).

Thirty-two families are now facing eviction from Inhoek Farm, where they were allocated land under the initial land reform programme that was intended to lessen overcrowding and poverty in communal areas, according to a report by the CRD on the arrests in Manhize.  

On 9  February, seven women with infants and one man were whisked away from Mushenjere Village on Inhoek Farm in Manhize by four state security agents and driven to Mvuma Police Station where they were detained for the night. Twelve others were arrested and appeared at the magistrates’ court in Mvuma on 14 February.

The evictees are children of permit holders who have been living on Manhize’s Inhoek Farm for 40 years. However, the land permits issued by the government have no security of tenure.

“The conditions of living on the land outlined in their permits rest solely at the discretion of the minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement,” the CRD said.

“Thus the minister ‘may for any public purpose reverse this permit at any time and under such conditions as he thinks fit on payment of the holder of such compensation the minister may decide’.”

A day before the arrests, Mvuma district development coordinator (DDC) Jorum Chimedza accompanied by officers from the President’s Office and officials from the ministry of Lands held a meeting with villagers in Mushenjere.

Before meeting villagers later in the afternoon, the delegation had earlier spent more than four hours meeting with Dinson. Chimedza is reported to have told farmers that their children had occupied land illegally and must return to the residential site allocated to them in 1984.

“Villagers at the meeting said they were taken aback when Andrew Chatindo, a purported headman and aide of Chief Chirumhanzi accused Mushenjere villagers of engaging in opposition political activities for raising their voices through the media on Dinson mining developments affecting them,” the CRD said.

“Eyewitness accounts of the meeting reported that Chatindo threatened villagers with a blood bath in the 2028 elections if villagers joined the opposition. Villagers interviewed by CRD after the meeting questioned the motive behind threats of evictions and arrests of occupiers of state land in Mushenjere Village when other occupiers of state land in Kwaedza Village nearby were left unscathed.”

The permit holders at Mushenjere’s Inhoek Farm have for the past two months been locked in a wrangle with Dinson to negotiate compensation for the loss of livelihoods and land caused by Disco’s operations.

The farmers have also been demanding a monthly food basket of between US$300 to US$500 for each household to sustain their lives whilst awaiting relocation, which the company has not honoured.

As reported by The NewsHawks, the company has been insincere in providing food to the villagers as per its promise.

On 23 January, Dinson delivered a paltry two kilogrammmes of flour, 10kgs of mealie-meal, two litres of cooking oil, two kilogrammes of laundry soap and 500 grammes of salt worth US$14 in Mushenjere Village, a move seen by villagers as an attempt to test their resolve in demanding compensation.

Last week, permit holders were also given US$200 each, but only ahead of a visit by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa.

After Disco commenced operations in 2021, it built houses for 14 families who were relocated to nearby Rusununguko Farm in 2022, leaving more families, including the 32 living on state land.

Locals believe the company has been trying to push the villagers away since then.
The CRD said the uncertainty has been worsened by the government’s failure to repeal repressive land tenure law.

“The government exploited colonial and unjust mining law aided by an unsecured multiple land tenure system to grant Dinson exclusive mining rights over farming land in
Manhize. Despite Zimbabwe adopting a progressive constitution in 2013 that recognises fundamental human rights and freedoms of citizens, the government has maintained regressive laws such as the Communal Lands Act 20:04 formerly Tribal Trust Lands and the 1965 Mines and Minerals Act.

“These laws do not respect the rights of traditional communities where land has been prospected for mining or set aside for any public purpose. At the same time, the permit and lease land tenure system applicable to agricultural landholders vest all powers in the state.”

At least 1 170 hectares of farmland have been taken from plotholders by Disco in Mushenjere Village, leaving farmers without aa source of livelihood since 2021.

Disco is already erecting a wall to enclose farmland and grazing pasture, further shutting out families at Mushenjere Village.

The loss of grazing land to Dinson has caused despair among farmers and forced them to sell their cattle at giveaway prices. Information coming from the negotiations indicates that Dinson has been reluctant to commit to the farmers’ demands on compensation.

A total of 138 families from Kwaedza Village are also facing a similar predicament as Disco has already set land survey pegs in their village.

The villagers mainly originated from the poor and densely populated communal areas of Rukovere, Mahusvu, Msasa, Unyetu villages of Chikomba district in Mashonaland East province.

In 1984 they were allocated land on purchased farms by the state under the “minda mirefu” land reform programme that was initiated by governmen soon after Independence in 1980.

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