Chilonga community leader Livison Chikutu is going to appear in court on the 22nd of August 2022 in Chiredzi. In the month of August, village head Chikutu appeared in court for the fourth time. The state is prolonging the case, making it difficult for Chikutu, who commutes from Chilonga to Chiredzi frequently. Chikutu was arrested in June 2022 and was granted $5,000 bail. Chikutu was charged with violating section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act by attending a gathering with the intent to promote public violence and breaches of the peace.
He is being represented by Muzenda and Chitsama Legal Attorneys. Chukuti’s arrest is viewed by the Shangaan community as persecution for their resistance to the lucerne grass project. The Chilonga community is of the view that their leader is being persecuted for resisting the arbitrary eviction and that the arrest is to instill fear amongst the affected communities.
The allegations were that he mobilized other traditional leaders in Chilonga to have a meeting with Chief Chilonga concerning the lucerne grass project. On the day in question, Chief Chilonga had an emergence meeting in Masvingo. Upon arrival at the Chief’s homestead, the Chief’s aid addressed the village heads and the meeting was called off. The investigative officer of the case testified in court that the Chiredzi DISPO was instructed by JOC to arrest Chikutu. And he had no more information regarding what might have been happening at Chief Chilonga on the day in question.
After the closing of the state case on the 15th of August 2022, Chikutu’s counsel submitted that there was “no iota of evidence” linking him to the commission of the offence and that putting him to his defence would amount to bolstering the state case, which was unable to stand on its own. The evidence of the state was so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable court acting reasonably could rely on it. As the state had failed to establish a prima facie case, the trial court is going to give a ruling on August 22, 2022, which required an acquit by virtue of the peremptory provisions of s 198 (3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.
In another development in Chilonga, on the 16th of August 2022, Dendairy sent a Zimbabwe United Passengers Company (ZUPCO) bus to take community members to Lupane irrigation scheme for an appreciation visit. Villagers were forced into the bus, but most refused. The trip was targeted at 60 people from the 3 wards, but only 49 showed up. Many of the 49 people came from ward 7, which is unlikely to be affected by the lucerne project. The visit to Chilonga was a promise made by Minister July Moyo on the 5th of August 2022 in Triangle, where he had a meeting with traditional leaders from Chilonga.
Source: Masvingo Centre for Research, Advocacy and Development (MACRAD)