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MORE than 10 000 villagers in Insiza District in Matabeleland South face eviction from their homesteads after the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement issued them with eviction orders alleging that they were occupying the land illegally.
The affected area falls under Ward 22 in Insiza North constituency with all but a few homesteads in all 27 villages being ordered to vacate the area for illegally occupying the land.
The eviction has, however, seen the ruling Zanu-PF stepping in to seek dialogue, arguing that according to Government policy, evictions can only take place when the people have been given alternative places to move to and that the affected villagers had already invested a lot in the area with some having stayed there for more than 20 years.
In an interview with Sunday News yesterday, Zanu-PF Secretary for Administration, Dr Obert Mpofu said he had approached President Mnangagwa who had made it clear that the evictions should be stopped.
“It’s a sad situation honestly and as a party we are clear in saying that it is not allowed, the party does not accept it and the President has made it clear that it should not go ahead.
“When I first heard of the issue, I immediately spoke to President Mnangagwa who made it clear that whenever an eviction takes place, alternative accommodation should be identified for the villagers.
“In this instance some of these villagers have stayed there for over 20 years and they are not occupying areas that are environmentally not meant for resettlement, there is nothing wrong with where they settled at all, so as a party we are saying deal with the other problems but don’t evict these people because they have invested in the area and are contributing to the country’s fiscus through their agricultural activities,” said Dr Mpofu.
He said what was needed was for the Government to identify the people who had illegally sold the land to the villagers rather than targeting the villagers.
“The President has always spoken on the need to deal with land barons, in this case I believe the issue is to deal with the individuals that sold land to these villagers rather than dealing with the resettled villagers, wanton evictions are never a solution,” said Dr Mpofu.
Sunday News last Friday visited the affected area and discovered an area that has been highly developed by the resettled villagers with brick houses fit to be located in towns. Some of the villagers have drilled boreholes at their homes while some are in the process of connecting electricity.
Most villages interviewed claimed they have been staying in the area for over 20 years and have been religiously paying the required rates to the Government and the local authority – Insiza Rural District Council – over the years. Further the ward has seen the construction of four primary schools and two secondary schools all feeding from the 27 villages.
“I have been staying here since the year 2000, as you see my homestead, I have invested a lot of the years, further I have been paying rates year in year out, I am not in arrears at all.
“It thus surprises me that from nowhere I get such an eviction order, what did I do wrong, where do I go from here and what happens to my investment?” said Mr Vusumuzi Moyo who also runs a bottle store business in the area.
Mr Sipho Sibanda, who said he was a war veteran, revealed that while they had got their eviction letters what was puzzling them was that there were people who were being allocated stands within the same villages.
“There is a group which villagers have termed AmaKhumaloamahle who over the past couple of months have been resettled in the same villages where we are being evicted, clearly there is someone being mischievous out there who needs to be exposed.
“All we are calling for is for the responsible authorities to come to us rather than threaten us with such evictions.
“When you look at the amount of investment we have put into this area, the authorities will appreciate that we are not a menace but are actually contributing to this nation’s development,” said Mr Sibanda.
Mr Sibanda said they had met with villagers and came up with a stance that they would not heed the eviction order and were prepared to fight to protect their investments. According to one of the eviction letters dated 28 February this year, signed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Mr Ringson Chitsiko, the villagers were ordered to have moved from the area by 19 March or risk facing arrest.
“You are hereby given seven days’ notice to vacate Greenlands Farm, Insiza District, Matabeleland South. You are violating section 3 of the Gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisional) Chapter 20:28 Gazetted Land Act in that you are occupying the said property without lawful authority.
“You are hereby given an eviction notice and notice to vacate the property on or before 19 March 2019. Failure to vacate before this date will result in your arrest and prosecution in terms of the Gazetted Lands Act,” reads part of the letter.
In January this year more than 300 families who had illegally settled at Willsgrove Farm in Umguza, were left homeless after they were evicted from the property and their homes were demolished. The farm is owned by MacDonald Bricks which was in possession of a court order to evict the families.- sundaynews