Villagers in Chilonga Chiredzi protest after Vice-President’s address

Chiredzi South villagers on Wednesday last week raised placards in the presence of vice president Constantino Chiwenga to protest a lucerne grass farming project which is bound to displace over 1 000 families from their ancestral land. The vice president visited Chilonga communal lands with ministers Perence Shiri (Agriculture), Fortune Chasi (Energy), Ezra Chadzamira (State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs), July Moyo (Local Government), John Mangwiro (Health deputy) and Clemence Chiduwa (Finance deputy). However, after villagers spent the whole day waiting for the vice president he arrived at 4pm and gave a 10 minutes speech. After Chiwenga’s address, some villagers peacefully protested by raising placards inscribed with such messages as ‘consult us on lucerne’ and ‘takaramba investor’. Members of Chiwenga’s security team quickly moved to reign in the protesters so that the vice president could not notice what was happening.

In his 10-minute address, Chiwenga promised to resuscitate the Chilonga Irrigation Scheme and vowed to push through the grass project, which he said was important for the future. Without elaborating, he warned that rural people should expect a new form of societal organization post-pandemic, arguing that the current arrangement was not sustainable. “We need to work together now. We need you to work together with the team we are going to send back (from Harare) in order to speed up the process. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, we will never get back to our traditional arrangement of living. We are going to start a new living arrangement. Are we together?” said Chiwenga.

Villagers are resisting government plans to remove them, fearing a repeat of the fate of thousands of villagers who dumped in the semi-arid Chingwizi area of Mwenezi East with no basic amenities during construction of Tungwi-Mukosi Dam. A few years ago, hundreds of families were displaced to pave way for bio-energy company Green Fuel to grow sugarcane and set-up an ethanol plant in the Chisumbanje area of the neighbouring Chipinge district. After enduring hardships at Chingwizi transit camp, the Tugwi-Mukosi flood victims were later allocated one-hectare plots on a portion of Nuanetsi ranch in the arid Mwenezi district as part of compensation for the relocation. Zimbabwe Bio-energy owns the ranch, a company owned by millionaire businessman Billy Rautenbach. Last year, the businessman threatened to kick the villagers out of his property. He displaced several families in Chisumbanje to pave way for Green Fuel’s ethanol project nearly two decades ago. Some of the displaced villagers are yet to receive compensation.

Source: Tell Zimbabwe

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