RUSHINGA — A traditional chief’s compound in Zimbabwe epitomises cleanliness and orderliness as it receives society and the community’s high and mighty.
BY NDAMU SANDU
Chief Rusambo’s homestead in Rushinga, about 260km north of Harare, is however an exception.
His homestead, in the arid part of Mashonaland Central province, has been turned into a transit camp housing over 50 families evicted from Spelenken Farm in Mazowe last month.
Unlike Chingwizi transit camp in Nuanetsi Ranch which accommodates flood victims from the Tokwe-Mukosi basin, those that sought sanctuary at Chief Rusambo are victims of a man-made disaster as Zanu PF government creates its own Chingwizi in Mashonaland Central.
Among the evictees is Mary Kazunga, a woman believed to be the spirit medium of Zimbabwe’s first Chimurenga heroine, Mbuya Nehanda.
Make-shift sheds are dotted across the compound. A plough, rolls of barbed wire, a pile of asbestos sheets have found space in the middle of the compound.
Outside a hut, two elderly women sat on a reed mat pondering the future next to a pile of blankets stacked on a chair.
Behind the kitchen, women prepared relish for lunch helping each other with chores.
When lunch was ready, the food was put in two plates and children, numbering 20, had to share, regardless of age.
It all began with a phone call from the police.
“I was called by the police wanting to find out if I knew ‘Mbuya Nehanda’. I said yes without knowledge that they would bring over 50 families to my homestead. If I had not said yes, I don’t know where these people would have been dumped,” Chief Rusambo born Gladmore Kangora, told The Standard on Friday.
“They came here with nine police trucks full of goods that were offloaded in my yard. My neighbours took some of the goods for safekeeping fearing that they would be destroyed in the event of rains falling.”
The extended family has to grapple with food shortages. The area is arid and Chief Rusambo’s fields do not give clues of a bumper harvest.
As a result, the traditional leader has to dig deep into his pockets. The make-shift tents cannot accommodate everyone.
“There is no food and accommodation. People are sleeping in the open because the houses cannot accommodate everyone,” said Chief Rusambo.
The chief has resigned to his fate as provincial government structures have not moved in to avert possible disaster.
Despite a visit by the local MP, Wonder Mashange, the homestead still has not received any form of support.
Primary and Secondary Education minister, Lazarus Dokora, who hails from the same area, has also visited Chief Rusambo’s homestead but nothing came out of the visit.
The traditional leader said he called provincial affairs minister, Martin Dinha and there was no response.
He then approached Alfred Tome, provincial administrator for Harare for onward transmission of his plight to President Robert Mugabe.
“Tome told me to wait and I have not heard any word from him ever since,” he said.
Other than the hunger and accommodation crisis gripping the victims, they also have to contend with patrols from the Criminal Investigations Department in the area.
“We are told that there were no patrols before we came here. We don’t know what they are looking for,” one of the victims said.
The majority of children on the compound are of school-going age but since the forced eviction from Mazowe last month, they have not been to school.
This means that their future is in tatters.
“Children are not going to school. Some are sick and we fear an outbreak of diseases. There is no drinking water or grazing lands for our cattle,” said Agnes Mbokochena.
The compound has only two blair toilets, inadequate to meet the demands of the now extended family.
As The Standard news crew was interviewing Chief Rusambo, a child — probably aged five —sprinted to the toilets and on discovering that they were occupied, immediately relieved himself in a nearby field.
We have been let down by Zanu PF — Victims
Anger is rising among the victims, most of who campaigned for Zanu PF in the 2013 elections. They said they now fear that the revolution was now devouring its children.
“We voted for one President and we are tired of people saying they were sent by the President. The President should come and address us,” said one of the victims.
The victims are convinced that by evicting “Mbuya Nehanda”, Zanu PF will pay for its sins sooner rather than later.
“They are now fighting the spirit medium which brought independence to this country. If problems were to befall this country, they [government] should not be surprised,” one of the victims said.
Just some metres from the chief’s homestead there was a field day on Friday where Dokora was the guest of honour.
Chief Rusambo snubbed the meeting saying he had not been invited. An emissary sent to pick up the traditional leader returned empty-handed.
“The chief is right, he can’t enjoy while the rest of us are suffering,” one Mazowe evictee told The Standard news crew.
Dinha’s telephone number was unreachable yesterday, as was Mashonaland Central provincial administrator, Josphat Takundwa Jaji’s.
Jaji told The Standard last month that “Mbuya Nehanda” would be relocated to her former village in Rushinga.
While the evictees are scrounging for food in Rushinga, their former fields at Spelenken Farm would be ready for harvesting in a week’s time.
The families are not sure whether they would be allowed to harvest their crops considering the violent nature of the eviction.
The High Court has however ruled that they must be given six months notice to vacate the Mazowe farm and also be allowed to harvest their crops.
It is however yet to be seen if any of the villagers would be brave enough to challenge and defy the violent police eviction they were subjected to, especially given the reported source of the eviction order.