by SHELUZANI MAKHESE
CHIREDZI, (Lowveld Post) – MINORITY tribes facing eviction from their ancestral lands southeast of Zimbabwe believe the current government is more vicious than the colonial regime or the repressive presidency of Ian Smith (now late).
The ongoing plans to evict the Shangaan communities from the lands in Chiredzi, to make way for agriculture projects, is among a number of issues bedeviling the country 40 years after gained independence from British colonial settlers.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is allegedly violating the rights of the minority communities in an attempt to facilitate agro projects for unknown Chinese investors said to have links to the head of state and his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) elite.
The VaTsonga / Shangaan elderly tribesmen are among those at the receiving end of intimidation by the government’s feared state security Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives.
“I have known no other village except Masivamele communal lands,” said 102-year-old man (name withheld) for fear of victimisation.
“What boggles the mind is that my own government, in which my three sons died during the liberation struggle would want to evict us and make way for unknown Chinese,” he added.
The tribesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “It was better under Ian Smith, not this culture of fear and gross human rights violations by the so-called new dispensation.”
Smith ruled the then-Rhodesia until it attained independence as Zimbabwe in 1980, with Robert Mugabe as president.
Mnangagwa succeeded Mugabe following a military coup in 2017.
He pledged the “new dispensation” would uphold human rights but these promises seem hollow as crises mount.
Another elderly villager (97) from Chilonga communal also said the current administration was more abusive than Smith’s and Mugabe’s governments.
“Imagine, at my age (97), I’m being evicted from the only place I have known as home all my life. Can you call this a government of the people or a mafia group?” he asked.
Recently, the Chiredzi Land Taskforce embarked on massive protests against the planned evictions.
“This is purely systematic extinction of minority tribes in Zimbabwe by the so-called the Second Republic,” a community leader lamented.
The lands at the centre of the tensions are Zimbabwe’s prime agriculture area in Chilonga, Chinghele, Chibwedziva, Chagwaliva, Masivamele and surrounding communal lands in Chiredzi south bordering Mozambique and South Africa.
Sugarcane is the main cash crop at the area that includes Chiredzi urban, Hippo Valley Estates, Mkwasine and Triangle Limited.
Chiredzi Rural District Council could not respond on the issue, referring Lowveld Post to Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister, Ezra Chadzamira, who could not be reached.
He is reportedly working with national government to spearhead evictions.
Local chiefs Chilonga, Masivamele, Mupapa, Sengwe and Tshovani are reportedly under surveillance from state security operatives to discourage them from speaking to the media.
Last year, the government imposed a chief from the majority Shona, Chief Neromwe (Clemence Madzingo) from Zaka district to forcefully grab land under a minority tribe Chief Tshovani (Hlaisi Mundau) in Chiredzi north.
Local legislator, Callisto Gwanetsa, apparently does not grant interviews fearing ramifications.