Villagers protest against Mphoko land invasion

VILLAGERS at Tshayile area in Bubi, Matabeleland North province face eviction allegedly to pave way for Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, who reportedly wants to construct his homestead on top of a mountain that lies on their land.

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU

Tshayile villagers protesting against Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s plans to grab land at Shilloh Farm

Tshayile villagers protesting against Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s plans to grab land at Shilloh Farm

A number of villagers staged a demonstration yesterday in Tshayile area, Ward 10 of Bubi constituency, protesting against the plans to grab their land at Shilloh Farm, adjacent to Mphoko’s Mdlawuzo Farm.

A portion of Mdlawuzo Mountain lies in Mphoko’s Farm, while the remainder falls under Shilloh Farm, where the villagers were resettled in 2000 during the land reform exercise.

Mphoko’s farm is in Umguza district, while Tshayile Farm is in Bubi and the land in dispute is along the two districts’ borders.

According to the villagers, Mphoko’s plans to expand his property to 2 000 hectares beyond his boundary will see them losing Tshayile Primary School, farming and grazing lands, the sole borehole and nutritional garden funded under the Australian Direct Aid Programme.

The Japan Embassy funded the construction of the only four classroom blocks at Tshayile Primary School for $102 436, which was officially opened in February last year.

Ironically, Mphoko was supposed to officially open the school, but sent minister of State in his office, Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga instead. Pupils at the school had been learning in a pole and dagga structure constructed by the community.
The Japanese funding for the school’s construction was channelled through a local non-governmental organisation, Rural Women and Children Legal Resources Trust (RWCLT) which co-ordinated the project.

“We are totally against the VP’s plans to grab our lands. The VP has not officially communicated to us why he is expanding into our area. He only sent an SMS to the village head, informing him about his plans,” Levy Ncube, secretary of Tshayile villagers’ committee told the Southern Eye during a visit to the area yesterday.

The VP, in the SMS, allegedly told the village head Aaron Mlalazi that his 1992 application to the Lands ministry to extend his farm beyond Shilloh Farm has since been approved, 24 years later.

Mlalazi said: “Since then, we have seen Mphoko’s employees coming to our area to peg and clear land for the expansion. We clashed with the employees last week until police intervened. We are not necessarily fighting his employees, but all we are saying is that we are totally against this expansion which eats into our lands.”

The area councillor, Smatch Mlalazi said they have approached various government departments seeking help to stop Mphoko without success.

Even attempts to lobby their legislator, Clifford Sibanda and Chief Mtshana Khumalo have not yielded results, but that has not deterred them and they vowed to seek financial assistance to fight Mphoko at the courts to stop their eviction.

Mlalazi said Sibanda, who is the minister of State in Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office, tried to engage Mphoko without success.

“Our MP told us that he met and spoke with Mphoko about our grievances, but failed to change his mind. Of course, we understand that he is untouchable and government departments like the Lands office cannot do anything to stop him as is the case, but we will not rest,” Mlalazi said.

Sibanda yesterday declined to comment on the land dispute. Chief Khumalo’s mobile phones rang unanswered when Southern Eye sought a comment from them. Kanengoni-Malinga could also not be reached for comment.

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