Masvingo Centre for Research, Advocacy and Development (MACRAD) has been tracking, monitoring, and documenting land disputes in Masvingo Province. At this time housing has become the frontline defence against the coronavirus. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Zimbabwe government ordered all people to “stay home” guided by the Statutory Instrument 77 of 2020. And yet, in reality in Chiredzi North Gutsaruzhinji C, over 300 people are crowded at an open space after their property, houses, livestock were burnt down during the ongoing land dispute and at the same time, many households and communities continue to be threatened with eviction in Mwenezi (Iroon wood farm), Clipsham farm, Chilonga and Bani.
MACRAD in collaboration with Heart Soul TV managed to produce a short Gutsaruzhinji documentary where over 300 people are homeless, with absence of basic amenities. MACRAD through Heart and Soul TV presenter Blessed Mhlanga raised a grocery worth RTGs $120 thousand for the families in August 2020. MACRAD engaged the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and facilitated a consultation meeting in Chiredzi North Nyangambe where critical stakeholders participated. The case is now before the court represented by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. MACRAD managed to engage the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and this resulted in the donation of four tents per each family unit. The tents were handed over to the Chiredzi District Development Coordinator Mr Chisema.
Gutsaruzhinji C was established in 2008 when land was parcelled out to settlers by Cephas Chabwino also known as Tandare, who we knew as the headman, and Shawi Ziwonje better known as Marhanda. The names of the then known occupants of the land were registered with the then village head Innocent Mashiri. The land was sold to the villagers and it was understood that the money was ultimately an appreciation for Chief Tshovani. On the 10th and 11th July 2020 a mob who claim to be true owners of the land and who can settle and evict anyone at their will, came and destroyed all the homesteads of the village with iron bars and taking away their tools and food. They had strength in weapons and in numbers as they grouped with other people residing outside Nyangambe. During the violent attack, two people were badly injured, a mother and a one year child are still missing. On the 14th of July 2020 the malicious damage to property was reported at ZRP Mkwasine police station under CR number 36/7/20. On the 18th July 2020 police attended the scene for the attempted murder of the child, the kidnapping of a mother and a child, and the assault reported under case under CR 38/7/20. 15 people were arrested and spent 21 days in remand prison and are only now out on bail. Zimbabwe Lawyer for Human Rights is representing the Gutsaruzhinji families. On the 29th of September 2020 a final peace order is being heard at Chiredzi magistrate court.
In light of the economic recession, measures must be in place to ensure security of tenure and that no one is evicted into homelessness for a reasonable time after the end of the pandemic. MACRAD edged the government to take this opportunity to eliminate homelessness in keeping with their international human rights obligations and their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals.
Gutsaruzhinji Documentary link
Source: Masvingo Center for Research and Community Development (MACRAD)