Tonga and Korekore speaking people residing in Lubimbi, Binga, who are facing eviction to pave way for the construction of Gwayi-Shangani Dam have broken their silence and are calling for a clear relocation plan from government.
Speaking during a meeting hosted by Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) held under the theme ‘Solidarity between Bulawayo Residents and Lubimbi residents who are facing evictions due to Gwayi -Shangani Dam,’ residents allayed any fears that they could be resisting government-driven development but identified the absence of a clear relocation roadmap as source of bother and anxiety.
The imminent rain season coupled with the fast-approaching dam construction deadline which happens to fall in December, has sparked fears among the affected communities who at the minute, still have no idea where they are destined for upon eviction from their ancestral land.
One affected resident who identified himself only as Albert warned that history could be repeating itself. “We are so worried by the looming evictions. Our parents went through the same ordeal that we fear may be replaying all over again…they were evicted to make way for the construction of Kariba Dam amidst false promises of relocation. Up to now, those promises have not yet been fulfilled. It has been 65 years since the promises were made,” he said.
The residents unanimously made the point that it would be unacceptable for authorities to offer them temporary structures such as tents but should avail proper building structures for housing.
In addition to permanent housing structures, Lubimbi residents are imploring the government to ensure that the area of relocation providesfor access to education and caters for their children’s educational needs.
“If we are to be moved to a new area, we would appreciate having some structures like schools either already established or built for our children so that their education is not affected. Some of them are examination candidates and moving them from Lubimbi will make it difficult for them,” said Albert.
Some human rights activists in attendance also expressed their grave concerns on the issue. One Bulawayo rights activist who identified herself as MaTshabalala said there is need for a human rights based approach on evictions, where government is supposed to build proper structures before relocation to avoid possible human rights violations.
Speaking during the same meeting, Matabeland Institute for Human Rights Coodinator, Khumbulani Maphosa empathised with Lubimbi residents and highlighted that Bulawayo residents cannot proceed to enjoy Gwayi-Shangani Dam water with a clear conscience given the potential infringement on the rights of the Lubimbi community in the process of availing water to Bulawayo.
“When we say we need safe water in Bulawayo we mean our water must be clean even from human rights violations hence as Bulawayo we cannot drink the Gwayi-Shangani water comfortably when the Binga residents are moaning as a result of the processes conducted to bring us the water,” he said.
About 2000 people from Lubimbi are set to be evicted to make way for the construction of Gwayi-Shangani dam that is set to ease Bulawayo’s water challenges.
Authorities have set December 2021 as the deadline for the completion of Gwayi-Shangani dam. Eviction of communities from their ancestral lands has become an emotive issue with communities in Hwange, Chipinge and Uzumba crying foul at being sacrificed for development.
Source: Community Podium