Mugabe Cleric In Land Grab Storm
25 November 2023
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By- The Roman Catholic Church and villagers in Chishawasha, Goromonzi district, are involved in a land dispute after the church announced plans to evict over 200 families from their ancestral communal land and convert it into a church-run urban settlement.

The villagers have taken the matter to court to seek an order to stop the evictions that will affect seven villages under Chief Chinamora. They want the Jesuit provincial superior of Zimbabwe, Fidelis Mukonori, to transfer the title deeds to them after conducting land surveys.

Mukonori is accused by the ZANU PF leadership of working with high-profile party members who are part of the Catholic Church to unlawfully evict the villagers and divide the land into residential plots for resale, NewsDay reported citing court papers.

The land dispute goes back to the 1890s when the Chishawasha clan, also known as VaShawasha, was forced off the land by white settlers. The land was given to the Catholic Church as a token of gratitude for their support of the Pioneer Column.

The dispute intensified during the time of former President Robert Mugabe when the Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo, ordered the remaining villagers to leave their land. However, there was a faction within the ruling ZANU PF party who disagreed with this decision.

In a letter dated March 9, 2021, the ZANU PF leadership in Goromonzi district accused some government officials of supporting the Roman Catholic Church, causing them to lose political support in the area. Read the letter in part:

The proposed developments in Chishawasha have opened a can of worms and exposed high-profile people as you will find out.

Our Zanu PF party and the residents of Chishawasha need assistance from our leaders of the party since the urbanization issue wasn’t done in good faith.

The Jesuits formed a bogus Chishawasha Development Association as a divide-and-rule tactic, thereby offering a few rich selected residents with 99-year leases. The Zanu PF MP (Phineas Chiota) representing Chishawasha held a meeting with the Jesuits at Garnet House, thereby silencing the eviction issue facing residents around 2006. He instructed the Jesuits to leave the Vashawasha people with their land.

Some ZANU PF officials have accused Fidelis Mukonori of using his influence as a renowned priest and confidante of former President Robert Mugabe to pressure the government into facilitating a land grab. The party alleges that Mukonori colluded with the then Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo, to promote the Greater Harare project, which involved the government and the Jesuits working together.

The ZANU PF leadership claims that Mukonori and Chombo held meetings with village heads, threatening them with arrests for allowing new settlers in Chishawasha. They also accused Mukonori of misleading residents into thinking that the urbanisation scheme was genuine, only for eviction papers to be given to other residents. The local ZANU PF leadership has called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to intervene and halt the evictions. Goromonzi district, known for its proximity to Harare, has been targeted by land barons and politicians for housing schemes.