HomeLocalEvicted and dumped: War vets’ families in dire straits

Evicted and dumped: War vets’ families in dire straits

Richard Nyamadzawo’s dream of becoming a medical doctor one day and save millions of Zimbabweans desperately in need of medical attention is dying faster than it was conceived.

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War veterans and other families are braving the cold by the roadside after they were evicted from two Chegutu farms a fortnight ago
War veterans and other families are braving the cold by the roadside after they were evicted from two Chegutu farms a fortnight ago

The 11-year-old Nyamadzawo has stopped attending lessons since his family was evicted from Stanely farm.

It is now exactly two weeks since more than 150 families that included scores of war veterans were evicted from Stanely and Dorothy More farms in Chegutu — in Mashonaland west province, about 105km south of the capital Harare.

The families were dumped by the road side along Chegutu- Mhondoro highway by the messenger of court to pave way for a former banker, Samuel Nhakaniso.

Most of those evicted were settled at the farm in 2000 during government’s controversial fast-track land reform programme and a good number of them are former combatants of the 1970s liberation struggle that ushered Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

Nyamadzawo’s new role is to look after his father’s 70 herd of cattle, while his father fights for what he believes belongs to him — a 139 hectare piece of land.

“I have since stopped going to school to look after our maize and cattle. There is nothing that I can do now. My father is not around; he is in Harare trying all what he can to reclaim our piece of land,” he said.

“My mother is guarding our property by the road side. I can’t afford to go to school because I am afraid we may end up losing everything.”

Nyamadzawo’s primary school going sister and other children are also refusing to go to school for fear that they might find their families moved again.

At the roadside, with no essential services, life is proving difficult for the families. It’s hard to get clean drinking water.

Nyamadzawo’s mother, Nyaradzo Bwititi gets water from a nearby stream for bathing, washing and drinking, exposing her family to water-borne diseases.

“We drink from the nearby stream. There is no choice but I fear that my children will contract some diseases. We are surviving by the grace of God. The situation is very bad, we don’t have toilets,” said Bwititi.

Another evictee Juliet Muhamba said the situation was so bad that they now bathed in the bush during the night when children were asleep; stripping them of dignity as she no longer has a private life.

Garikayi Shumbaimwe a war veteran who came from Manicaland before he was settled at Dorothy More said they had nowhere to go and were waiting for government to give them another place for resettlement.

Shumbaimwe and others, mostly war veterans had been on the farms for more than 10 years.

Another war veteran Livingstone Nyamadzawo who was assigned to spearhead land invasions in the area while in the army is one of the displaced people.

Nyamadzawo who was contracted under command agriculture said his worst fear was that his maize crop under the scheme was being stolen since they were not allowed to return to the farm to harvest.

Those who received command agriculture inputs might fail to pay back the five-tonne per hectare requirement as they could not harvest due to court orders that bar them from entering their fields.

Command agriculture is a farming scheme introduced by government for the 2016/17 agricultural season which President Robert Mugabe hopes will ensure food self-sufficiency after years of devastating drought.

However, the programme, headed by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa has become the latest battleground for factional wars in Zanu PF between the VP’s Team Lacoste faction and the rival G40 group.

Under the scheme, over 2 000 farmers across the country received inputs from government and will repay after harvesting with each farmer expected to produce 1 000 tonnes of maize under the $500 million farming facility.

But the evicted farmers under the scheme said they will have challenges repaying back the money following the eviction before they harvested their crop.

Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association secretary general Victor Matemadanda condemned the evictions, accusing government of being more insensitive than the Ian Smith regime.

He said it boggled the mind why a person with only an offer letter was being respected more than 150 families who also had offer letters.

“The reason why we went to war was to fight segregation in the distribution of land. Now we have a government that is supposed to protect us acting worse than the Smith regime,” Matemadanda said.

“We don’t know where to go. Do we need to wage another war? Government is failing to look after its people.

“The people were once victims of the white men and now they are victims of their own black government.

“Why has government become so evil?

“People continue to get the same treatment they experienced under a government of the whites. Surely, we are humans and we can afford to give people places to stay.”

He said the laws were being applied selectively to benefit a few individuals at the expense of the majority and that had to stop.

Commercial Farmers’ Union president Pete Steyl yesterday slammed the evictions saying farming was a long-term business that needed security of tenure for the country to realise its economic potential.

“People on the farms need to be secure. Farming is a long-term business,” he said.

“How can you produce when you are not sure if you will still be on the farm the following season.”

Steyl said farming was the backbone of the country’s economy which created jobs in its value chain and thus challenged government to ensure there was security of tenure to ensure production and job creation.

Mugabe recently threatened to repossess farms that were not being utilised while threatening to take over the land still in the hands of white commercial farmers.

Zanu PF youth leader Kudzai Chipanga has also made similar threats against white farmers at a time when even those indigenous farmers who benefitted from the land reform have suffered evictions to pave way for well-connected people in the Zanu PF government. analysts have described the land wars as a dog eat dog situation.

Most mothers dumped by the road side who spoke to The Standard appealed for tents, blankets and food from well-wishers.

Surprisingly, no donations have been forthcoming from government, aid groups, churches or individuals.

However, human rights group, ZimRights has volunteered to help the displaced families get justice.

ZimRights director Okay Machisa said his organisation was concerned about failure by government to provide alternative accommodation for the displaced families before they were evicted.

Machisa said his legal team was looking into the issue and said so far they had noticed that the cancellation of the offer letters for the war veterans was not procedural.

“Firstly, ZimRights is concerned by the government’s failure to provide alternative place for the displaced as it violates their rights to shelter and, secondly, legally the offer letters of some of the displaced people were not constitutionally cancelled as some acting officers signed those pieces of paper,” he said.

“The responsible minister should cancel offer letters, not some acting officer.”

Stanely and Dorothy More farms were owned by Francis Claude Watkins before they were acquired by government in 2000 for land redistribution.

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