Masvingo Minister of State and Devolution, Honorable E Chadzamira together with ZANU PF Masvingo political commissar Jevas Masosote conducted a meeting in Chiredzi at Mutomani Business Center on the 8th of April 2021. Traditional village heads were invited concerning the government’s proposed lucerne grass project. Despite heavy security intelligence officers, angry village heads blamed the honorable Minister for letting the central government gazette Statutory Instruments 50/21, 62A and 72B which ordered the immediate eviction of villagers within the Chilonga area without being heard. The village heads present argued that there is no clear communication between them and relevant authorities concerning the eviction. The majority alluded that they heard about the statutory instrument through social media platforms and civic society organizations and nothing directly from the local authority.
The village heads also blame the Chiredzi Rural District Council (RDC) for not taking the affected communities seriously as they lie that they had conducted door-to-door consultations. The village heads mentioned that the Chiredzi RDC never consulted them but refused to give the Chilonga Land Committee members clear information regarding the eviction. The community leaders alluded that the publication of three different statutory instruments within a period of two weeks shows that the government is hiding something and the whole process lacks transparency. There is mistrust within the Chilonga communities as the government communication is not clear. On the onset they proposed to evict them and later after court application and public outcry they changed the project to irrigation. The government is proposing irrigation without mentioning how these communities are going to benefit among other pertinent issues.
A few days after the Masvingo State Minister’s visit to Chilonga, the Vice President C Chiwenga decided to change his venue to Triangle where registered village heads from Chilonga and few ZANU PF district structures were invited to the meeting. Chief Tshovani and Sengwe were invited leaving Chief Chitanga who is against the eviction of his people without proper procedures. The vice president decided to host these people in Triangle, as he was afraid that the Shangaan people were going to demonstrate during the meeting. Last year during his visit placards were raised and Chilonga villagers chanted slogans against the proposed project. Some village heads that are not registered by the district development coordinator were turned away. In his address the Vice President castigated the unfair distribution of sugarcane farms under Kilimanjaro project. Despite the area being under the Shangaan speaking people they were neglected during the distribution process. The farms were politicized during distribution.
The Vice President revoked all the offer letters issued to the beneficiaries of the Kilimanjaro project. He further asserts that the project was meant to benefit the Shangaan speaking people in Chilonga. The project, “Kilimanjaro” on 3 300h is being developed by Tongaat Huletts Zimbabwe (THZ) in Chiredzi and will develop virgin land into sugar cane plantations at Triangle and Hippo Valley Estates. The Vice President assured the delegates that the proposed irrigation in Chilonga is not going to evict anyone but it is there for the local people. The Shangaan people no longer trust the government as this is not the first time being displaced as they were evicted on several occasions years back without compensation. They feel the government is now betraying them by grabbing the little that has been left for them. The Shangaan community feels that tribalism is at play. The majority holds the view that the Shangaan speaking people are being discriminated against by the Shona speaking people who dominate top government positions.
MACRAD opined that, if the government is not going to displace the Shangaan community they should be given security of tenure first before the implementation of the irrigation project. Security of tenure will give relief to the affected community and confidence in their government. Some of the village heads criticized the Vice President for inviting them to Triangle risking their life crossing overflowing Runde River with boats. Some village heads opined that, if at all the government wants the community to benefit from lucerne grass farming, it should direct Dendairy to contract the communities so that they can themselves practice Lucerne farming. They say they are prepared to be taught by AREX officers and even Dendairy experts on how to farm lucerne. Currently the majority of famers in Chilonga have a contract with Delta Corporation Limited, a local beverages and brewery company which has been capacitating the Shangani people in growing sorghum through a scheme referred to as Beverages Sorghum Contract Farming Scheme (BSCFS). Through the BSCFS, Delta contracts farmers and supplies seeds and sometimes fertilizers.