Village Head Chikutu Acquitted, Intimidation and Threats Persists

The state failed to establish a prima facie case and yesterday, August 24, 2022, village head Chikutu was acquitted at Chiredzi magistrate’s court. Chikutu was arrested in June 2022, accused of contravening section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification & Reform) Act by attending a gathering with the intent to promote public violence and breaches of peace. The arrest was viewed by many as persecution for the resistance to the lucerne grass project. The Shangaan people have to participate in the decision-making process not as affected people but as primary actors who contribute to the socio-economic value of the lucerne project through their expectancy of its cost and benefits. The government should properly act in line with the supreme law of the land, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and Guidelines on Development-Based Evictions and Displacement. In contrast, the state intimidates and arrests local leaders in Chilonga. This is not a solution. Proper procedures should be followed. The government and Chiredzi rural district council should decide on effective grievance redress and feedback mechanisms to allow two-way communication.

The indigenous Shangaan community in Chilonga is entitled to enjoy all the fundamental human rights like all other citizens. The Shangaan people who live in the South eastern parts of Chiredzi have been and are still vulnerable to government-induced forced displacement. The second republic should help the Shangaan people to be compensated by the Tongaat Hulett and Gonarezhou national parks, as their forefathers were displaced around the 1960s by the colonial government to pave the way for sugarcane plantations and the national park. MACRAD calls for harmony and peace in Chilonga and believes that the negatively affected people should have the right to collectively negotiate, design, plan, implement, monitor, and evaluate the resettlement eviction.

On another development in Chilonga, it is regrettable that the Chiredzi rural district council permits operations of an unknown mining company to carry out some mining activities along the Runde river without informing the local leadership and villagers at large. The community argued that no consultations took place; they just noticed caterpillars and excavators along Runde. The local council is starving the community with information.

Source: Masvingo Centre for Research and Community Development

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