MACRAD bemoans violent land conflicts in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a devastating threat to lives and livelihoods around the world. Masvingo Centre for Research Advocacy and Development (MACRAD) has noted with great concern that 56 households constituting over 300 people have been living under a tree in Gutsaruzhinji village, ward 23 in Chiredzi North constituency since 10 July 2020.

The 56 households were forcibly evicted from their homes while their houses, crops and property was destroyed and burnt during the ongoing Nyangambe land conflict. The evictees have spent more than 2 months sleeping on an open space and they are surviving on sugarcane after their homes and food was destroyed.

The land conflict is being fuelled by the ward 23 councilor Douglas Mutowo, and Member of Parliament for Chiredzi North Roy Bhila fronting the Nyangambe sons. The evictions exposed 56 vulnerable households to greater risk of infection as they are living in crowded and unsanitary conditions under a tree along the Mkwasine irrigation canal.

The evicted people do not have a financial safety net. Many had already lost their source of livelihood due to the COVID 19 pandemic and find themselves homeless, hungry and at risk of ill-health. The evictions were unlawful and violated a range of civil, cultural, economic and social rights enshrined in international and national laws. There was no court order produced and no police present during the evictions.

Two women evictees gave birth under the tree as they could not access a health centre. One woman and a one year old toddler were abducted during the evictions and have not been found since 10 July 2020. The evictees reported the human rights violations at Mkwasine Police Station, but the police have been reluctant to intervene. MACRAD has referred the matter to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Heal Zimbabwe Trust and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

Through Heart and Soul TV the villagers were handed over a grocery worth $150 000 RTGS from a well-wisher. MACRAD in collaboration with Heal Zimbabwe managed to establish a peace committee in ward 23. The villagers were also capacitated with human, land and property rights and conflict resolutions skills.

MACRAD urges the government to declare an end to all evictions until the end of the COVID 19 pandemic. MACRAD also urged the government to urgently intervene while the police should investigate the human rights violations and bring to book the culprits.

Source: Masvingo Centre for Research Advocacy and Development (MACRAD)