By A Correspondent- Chiefs in Shurugwi are demanding that the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) compensates over 200 families they evicted from Lazy Nine Farm under Chief Banga two years ago.
The army gave a short notice that Lazy Nine Farm was a military protected area, where military training through use of live ammunition was conducted, which could expose the public and their livestock to danger.
The ZNA then forcefully evicted over 200 families within 12 days.
Villagers incurred huge losses in property and livestock.
Efforts to stop the evictions were fruitless as Chief Banga, then Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Jason Machaya and the district development co-ordinator (former district administrator) Reason Machiya failed to reach a consensus with ZNA as it insisted on the evictions using a notice signed by 5 Infantry Brigade Commander, a G Chitsva.
Speaking to Southern Eye, Chief Banga said the manner in which the eviction was conducted led his people to lose property and livestock as they sought for shelter elsewhere and feared being shot if found on the farm.
Lazy Nine Farm was occupied by villagers from Banga, Gato, Mushwe, Mufiri and Bera areas.
The farm demarcates Chivi North, Shurugwi and Zvishavane.
Chief Banga said he had already engaged the Shurugwi district administrator to notify the army that his people want compensation for loss of land and property.
“I have engaged chiefs Nhema and Mupakame to write a petition to the army seeking compensation for the loss my people suffered two years back. Some people up to now do not even have proper shelter and some do not even have farming land where they relocated,” Chief Banga said.
Chief Nhema said the evictees own the land.
“The army must compensate these families. The families are the true custodians of Lazy Nine Farm after they were first evicted from their ancestral land in 1978 by white settlers, who took the land for cattle ranching,” he said.
“In 1997, the villagers engaged government and they were given back their land. Later, the army came in using the other side of the farm.”
Midlands provincial development co-ordinator (formerly provincial administrator) Abiot Maronge distanced himself from the matter, stating that everything concerning Lazy Nine Farm evictions was in the hands of the army.
“This case is in the hands of the army. My office is also waiting to hear from the army,” he said.
Angry villagers said they were still counting losses caused by the untimely evictions.
Efforts to get an official comment from the army were fruitless, with Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri referring all questions to Zimbabwe National Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore, whose phone was not reachable.
Human rights activist and Midlands Senator Lillian Timveos said there was need for an urgent response from both the army and government in facilitating a resettlement programme and compensation to the affected families.
“The said land belonged to them initially, hence all parties involved must quickly come up with a good resettlement programme with good compensation. Human rights are key fundamentals in a democratic State,” she said.
One of the displaced villagers, Ronald Mukuku, who relocated to Mukandapi area, said he lost a four-roomed house he had just finished building using his pension
“They (army) must pay us all our losses. I am in pain becuasue all my pension money went down the drain. I left my homestead in a matter of days weeks after completing building my four-roomed house,” he said.
The army also recently evicted hundreds of villagers from Gutu-Mpandawana’s western part without any compensation, claiming it was a protected area.