By Tinashe Mungazi
HWANGE villagers have reacted angrily at Government`s decision to evict them from their communal area to make way for the establishment of Batoka Township.
The announcement was made through Statutory Instrument 188 of 2020 which was gazetted on Monday.
The development is reportedly going to affect over 100 homesteads in Jembwe, Jabula, Kasikili and Kanywambizi communal lands.
People occupying land in the area intended for the development have been ordered to vacate by the end of this year.
“The Minister of Local Government and Public Works, in terms of section 10 of the Communal Land Act [chapter 20:04], hereby makes the following notice: This notice may be cited as the Communal Land (Setting Aside of Land) (Batoka Township) Notice, 2020. The area of land specified in the Schedule shall be set aside with effect from 1st of January 2021, for purposes of establishing a township. Any person using or occupying the land specified in the Schedule, otherwise than by virtue of a right held in terms of the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05], is ordered to depart permanently, with all his or her property, from the said land by 31st of December 2020, unless he or she acquires rights of use or occupation to the said land in terms of section 9 (1) of the Communal Land Act,” read part of the SI.
Villagers who spoke to CITE said they were shocked to learn of the development and there was no mention of compensation.
They accused authorities of making decisions without consulting them arguing that the development though it was economically beneficial would be prejudicial to their livelihoods.
“We are still in shock over what we are hearing that they intend to evict us from our ancestral land our crime being that we are in the way of the so-called development. How can one wake up and decide to remove people without considering the impact on their livelihoods. We hear they won’t be compensation for those that are going to be affected. The government should ensure that it puts in place measures that protect its people as compared to placing money ahead, ” said David Ncube from Jebwe.
Kachechete ward Councilor, Givemoreagain Moyo under which Jebwe village falls said he was yet to go through the SI.
“It’s news to me I haven’t gone through the document but from the reactions of the affected people they are shocked at the notice. With the advent of social media, word travels fast and the reactions so far show people are devastated by the news. Communities need to be informed, they need to be consulted surely you can’t wake up and evict people. Council has a role to inform stakeholders. At the moment I don’t know who or how many are going to be affected by the displacement,” said Clr Moyo.
Cllr Sino Moyo of Jambezi ward whose area is also affected by the move said it was not yet clear where the Kanywambizi villagers would be relocated to as only one meeting with the community was held.
“It’s not yet clear as to where the affected will be moved to since there was only one meeting in fact people have not been addressed and unaware of the modalities associated with relocation and compensation. Last year people were told of the development of the project but not much was said about the impending displacement or compensation. Villagers are not happy with the development some developed infrastructure and being told to just leave is unfair. Most of these people are old and cannot afford to build afresh especially given the state of our economy, ” he said.
Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) criticised the move describing it as a violation of the rights of Batoka territory people.
“We believe that indigenous people have rights over their ancestral lands and it is a violation of their rights to allow the interests of capitalists to displace them. These people have preserved this land since time immemorial and they should benefit from development projects which have been attracted by their ancestral land,” CNRG Communications Officer, Simiso Mlevu.
“As CNRG we are against Forced Relocations and displacements. History has shown that our government does not value property rights because people who were moved from Marange to Arda Transau have not been compensated to date. They do not even have land for subsistence farming. We fear that the people of Hwange will face the same predicament of being forced to move without proper property and livelihoods valuations that should lead to adequate compensation.”
She argued that the Communal Lands Act was unconstitutional as it rendered rural communities stateless.
“The Communal Lands Act is grossly unconstitutional. Communal land is vested in the President and Local Government minister can from time to time designate new use for that land. Because of the Communal Lands Act, rural communities are stateless citizens. They have no rights to where they live. We ask, how different is this administration from colonial authorities when it comes to protecting the right of citizens?”
Efforts to get a comment from Chief Shana were fruitless, however, Hwange Rural District Council chief executive officer, Phindile Ncube said there was nothing amiss with the development.
“In any event, there is nothing new in the creation of urban land in a Communal area the issue of compensation is neither here nor there. I can assure you that the affected communities have been consulted. Yes the SI does not speak of compensation but the Environmental Impact Assessment will likely speak into the issue of compensation. Projects of national development tend to have certain impacts such as displacement. We see this with what happened during the establishment of the Tokwe-Mukosi dam we are also going to have a hydro dam here at the Zambezi gorges. “
The local authority intends to establish satellite towns in Ndlovu, Cross Mabale, 5 Miles, Monde, Cross Dete and the Batoka township.
The establishment of the Batoka township will be anchored on the construction and operation of a dam to power a 2400 MW hydropower plant that will be shared between Zimbabwe and Zambia.