High Court judges on the 12th of October 2021, set-aside judgment on an application by Chilonga villagers who were challenging provisions of the Communal Lands Act arguing that it did not respect African traditional values with regards to land ownership. The application was heard before Justices Joseph Mafusire, Never Katiyo and Chipo Mungwari at Harare High Court. Following the promulgation of the Communal land (Setting Aside of Land) (Chiredzi) Notice,2021 published in Statutory instrument 72A of 2021 on 16 March in 2021 the villagers had approached the High Court filing two court applications challenging the arbitrary eviction and seeking an order to set aside sections 4 and 6(1)(b) of the Communal Lands Act. The indigenous Shangaan are now in fear to invest and improve their infrastructure and property as their future is uncertain as the judgment was reserved.
The affected area was under Chief Sengwe, Headman Chilonga and headman Masivamele with a total number of 678 villages with 2 258 households and 13 840 people to pave way for lucerne grass project by a private investor Dendairy. The Chilonga villagers argued that the Communal Lands Act was a racist and colonial creature, which regarded Africans as uncivilized. The forced displacements planned by the government is projected to cause a lot of untold suffering amongst the poor resourced and vulnerable indigenous Shangaan people. The commonly cited challenges are to emerge from the loss of livelihoods, social capital, cultural identity and heritage cites.
Indigenous rights to ancestral homelands, self-determination, intellectual property, livelihood, and culture are constantly threatened by inadequate government policies that allow multinational companies to undertake uncontrolled resource extraction and exploitation as a way of boosting foreign revenues, despite the risk of ecological disaster and social disgrace. The Indigenous Shangaan people are particularly vulnerable to incursions into their traditional territory both land grabs and exploitation of natural resources because, most indigenous communities have no legal or other counsel so it is relatively easy for government officials to persuade them to move, and high biological diversity in their traditional territories makes them easy targets for strong corporate interests.
In another sad development, Chilonga residents are worried by the presence of armed Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) personnel camped in their area without any communication. It has been a week since the soldiers arrived in the area, some inserted their tents near shops and others along the highway to Chikombedzi. The reason for their presence is unknown but Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU.PF) Chiredzi District Coordinating Committee (DCC) Chairperson Mr S. Mundunhehama circulated a Whatsapp message arguing that the (ZNA) is doing its military exercise. The Chilonga leaders called for the government to communicate with the communities and if it’s training for sure they were supposed to be informed so that they take precautions of avoiding danger for themselves and their livestock.