Land evictions leave villagers uneasy

JOHN Fire Gumbo (72), a former political detainee, moved from Gokwe Nembudziya about eight years ago, at the height of the land invasions, to settle at Farm 27 in Chimaoga area where he built a new home.

Blessed Mhlanga
Staff Reporter

Gumbo, who just last week was convicted of trespassing and illegally settling on the farm belonging to Farai Magadzire, is among 74 other families who had settled on the property, which they now called home.

The eviction is a result of a Gokwe Magistrates’ Court ruling delivered in September 2012 and was only effected a year later and 41 days after the July 31 harmonised elections, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of those evicted.

Gumbo said he suspected the timing of the eviction and senior politicians in the area are conspicuous by their silence.

“It is as if they wanted us to vote for them first before evicting us, these politicians came here, campaigned and gave us a message of hope, saying land belonged to Zimbabweans and we would never be moved,” he said.

Hardly two months later, the 74 families are living in the open, along the Gokwe-Kwekwe highway, waiting for a miracle or any kind of help.

They are homeless after their homes were razed to the ground by police, who allegedly defied pleas from Chief Misheck Njelele to stop the destruction of homes, while waiting for a political solution.

Njelele has been attending court sessions in sympathy with his subjects, who are now struggling to raise the $100 fines passed down by magistrate Taurai Manwere after he gave them time to pay the fines. To add insult to injury, 80 more families were last Thursday evicted from a farm belonging to Star FM presenter Innocent Siboniso Tshuma of Farm 41 in Chemagora.

Tshuma also got an eviction order under case GL189/12 on September 12 and said he had been trying to get the illegal settlers off his farm to no avail.

Police evicted 15 settlers from his farm and charged them with trespassing and contempt of court. They denied the charges and have since been remanded in custody to Friday.

Beauty Ncube, a mother of four, has been sleeping in the open since last week when armed police forced her off the farm.

“I have been forced off my home and my children now cannot attend school or sleep in a decent house,” she said desolately.

“The saddest part, is I have nowhere to go. The home I left in Nembudziya has been destroyed.”

Kyce Musikiswa, who said she harvested 55 bags of maize from the land she had settled on, set by the roadside with her cattle grazing nearby, blankets and pots behind her, with the remaining bags of grain acting as windshields.

Musikiswa is angry at Zanu PF for “using her to win the elections and dumping her in the middle of nowhere while the chéfs feed on the gravy train”.

“We were picked up from here to attend a Zanu PF Gweru star rally, where President Robert Mugabe made an undertaking that nobody would lose land,” she lamented.

“Today we have lost land, our homes and dignity to people who don’t even have the capacity to use that land.”

Chief Njelele said he was worried over his subjects and was making frantic efforts to get them land so they could be resettled.

Webster Madobi, village headman at the disputed farm, said in the absence of financial assistance any relocation would not work.

“We will need financial assistance to help rebuild and prepare for the next farming season, because we have lost everything which used to sustain our lives,” he said.

“We won’t even have sufficient time to prepare for the next rainy season, which means food aid will be critical.”

With dusk setting in, more families, who resettled themselves in the Chimaoga area, were increasingly looking desperate, as they feared eviction was imminent.

Court Mpofu (70) said he had heard rumors that his group would be next and was now uncertain of his future and that of his grandchildren.

“We have not yet been evicted, but we know we are next and it is sad because this had become our lives,” he said.

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