by PATRICK CHITONGO
CHIREDZI, (Lowveld Post) – CONFLICT over land has degenerated into violence in southeastern Zimbabwe, Hippo Valley Estates where some farm workers have been arrested for allegedly assaulting a legislator forcing them out of their homes.
Six workers from the sugar company, Tongaat Hulett, have been arrested for the alleged assault of Zaka North Member of Parliament (MP), Rabson Mavhenyengwa.
One Taurai Mativenga has been named as the leader of the pack that reportedly brutalized Mavhenyengwa, who was reportedly leading some war veterans in a bid to evict the farmers off their houses.
The suspects have been granted US$20 each after appearing before the Chiredzi magistrate, Rodgers Mawarire, to face charges of assault.
Tensions have been brewing after Mavhenyengwa and some war veterans indicated they would force the farm workers out of the company-owned houses claiming the properties were leased to a group of liberation veterans, including Mavhenyengwa, by the government, through the Ministry of Lands.
Chief Tiyani Chilonga has criticised the arrest of the workers, some said to be his aides, and the plans by politicians to evict his subjects.
The traditional leader decried that his people had earlier moved from the Hippo Valley estates to pave way for sugarcane production and were now being further displaced.
“How can someone from outside our tribe (VaTsonga) come to our land and chase us? My subjects should not have been arrested because they fought Mavhenyengwa to defend what is theirs,” Chilonga said.
Mavhenyengwa refused to comment on the matter.
“I cannot comment over an issue that is before the courts,” he said before hanging his phone.
Former central committee member of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Samson Makonese, also defended the farm
“While I do not condone violence, I don’t see anything wrong for these workers to defend what is rightly theirs,” Makonese said.
“The Shangaan people are the owners of this land. They were moved to this area but kept working in Hippo Valley. It’s unfair on the part of politicians to take advantage of them and try to evict them.”
Chiredzi West MP, Farai Musikavanhu, said he had failed to resolve the issue between the politicians and farm workers.
“At one time, I tried to mediate between the two parties. I will appreciate if they can come to the table than to take the law into their hands,” Musikavanhu said.
Minister of Lands, Rtd Gen. Perrence Shiri, said, “People must learn to coexist in this new dispensation. Gone are the days of fighting for land. We encourage dialogue on this issue.”
The Lowveld Post is in possession of a withdrawal letter written to Mavhenyengwa by the Minister of Lands advising him against moving workers out of the houses in contention.
“Following discussions between the Ministry of Lands and Tongaat Hullet regarding occupation of houses by A2 land beneficiaries, you are advised not to move into the house you have (no) lease yet,” the letter reads.