WASHINGTON — Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the government to investigate the circumstances leading to devastating floods at Tokwe-Mukosi Dam and take action against those that are responsible if they were deliberately induced to force villagers to work in a nearby Zanu PF-owned farm.
The organisation says displaced Chingwizi Camp residents and Tokwe-Mukosi Dam project workers contend that the floods were artificially induced with authorities flooding the area to forcibly evict people without compensation and hire them as low-paid workers on a sugarcane farm jointly-owned by President Robert Mugabe’s party and Billy Rautenbach, a businessman and ruling party supporter.
According to HRW, some of those evicted said they should not have been moved because they were far from the flood areas, but believe that they were moved to work on the Zanu PF sugar farm.
“Dam workers said the flooding itself was artificially created, which they believe was done to evict residents without paying them compensation,” HRW said in its latest report.
Three men who were relocated told HRW that armed Air Force officers forcibly evicted them unnecessarily and without compensation.
One of them said: “The so-called floods at Tokwe-Mukosi are a myth. There were no floods at all.
“What happened is that those in charge at the dam closed the sluice gates in the dam to prevent water from flowing downstream, thereby causing floods upstream in the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam basin.
“When armed soldiers came to evict us at the end of January 2014, we pleaded with them to open the sluice gates and allow water to flow downstream of the dam, but they refused. The leader of the soldiers who addressed us said ‘President Mugabe directed that this dam should be constructed so that it contains water in it, and you ask us to let the water out? No. It is time for you to leave now. You will receive your compensation later, when the government gets the money’.”
HRW said the government should ensure that the basic rights of all displaced people at Chingwizi Camp are respected, including providing them with prompt and adequate compensation.
“The government’s previous pledge of five hectares of land per family to grow crops of their choice should be respected,” the group said.
“Any pressure on the displaced to become sugarcane contract farmers should cease.”