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‘Chilonga Evictions A Travesty Against Shangani People’

Minister July Moyo

Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust, an environmental rights group says the government’s move to evict over 12 500 villagers from Chilonga to make way for a lucerne grass project for a dairy farmer is a human rights violation on the Shangani People.

Recently the Government gazetted Statutory Instrument 50 of 2021 for the removal of the Chilonga people in Chiredzi from their ancestral home to pave way for a dairy company, Dendairy to run a lucerne grass farming project.

The Kwekwe based, private milk producer, is said to be eyeing approximately 10 000 hectares of arable land for the lucerne project meant for local and international markets.

In a statement Friday, Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust said the move was regrettable and against the constitution of Zimbabwe.

“We are following with concern developments in Chiredzi District where the government of Zimbabwe has approved the eviction of Shangaan families from their ancestral land to pave

“It is our conviction that this decision, to evict 2258 households with 13 840 people infringes on fundamental rights and freedoms set out in the Constitution,” the organisation said.

The displacement, GGZT added, further alienates Shangani people from their agricultural, religious and cultural heritage as private capital interest trumps community needs.

“Distressingly eviction is a legacy of injustice and a repetition of history for the Shangani people. They were displaced in the 1960s by the colonial government to pave way for Gonarezhou National Park and later moved to their current location in Chiredzi.

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“We, therefore, demand responsible and sustainable investments which promote local content development in solidarity with the Chilonga community and other communities displaced without proper compensation,” the statement further states.

The move by the government goes against the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the United Nations International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), to which Zimbabwe is a signatory to.

“The Zimbabwean Government must also consider domesticating the Kampala Declaration on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) through national legislation in order to establish a comprehensive national framework to address internal displacement,” GGZT added.

While the State can legally and compulsorily acquire land or any right or interest in such land, this should be done with respect to its sacrosanct duty to protect its citizens and promote their wellbeing

In accordance with Section 71 (3) of the Constitution, the government must ensure fair and just compensation for improvements effected on land payable before the acquisition of the said land.

Further, Section 13(2) of the Constitution provides that government national development programmes (like Lucerne production in this case) must involve local people in the formulation and implementation of development plans and programmes that affect them.

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Significantly, Section 16 Constitution compels the government to ensure local people benefit from their land and other resources.

It further imposes an obligation to promote and preserve cultural values and practices, as well as enhance dignity, well-being and equality in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, MDC Alliance secretary-general Chalton Hwende took swipe at the government’s move saying it inhumane.

“The latest decision by the ZANU PF government through its Local Government Minister July Moyo to evict over 12 000 villagers settled in Chilonga in Chiredzi to pave way for a grass project meant to feed cattle for a dairy company is the clearest demonstration of the callousness and selfishness of the political elites running our country.

“What makes the directive by July Moyo even more inhuman is that it does not provide the evicted villagers with alternative resettlement options,” Hwende said.

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Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

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