BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
THE Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) says the threat of evictions remains for Chilonga villagers despite government repealing Statutory Instrument (SI) 50/2021 which had legalised their displacement.
CNRG and other organisations have been at the forefront of resisting government’s decision to evict over 12 000 villagers from their ancestral land and challenged the SI in court.
The government then backtracked and went on to gazette SI 72A repealing SI 50/2021, but maintaining SI 51 which excised 12 940 hectares from Chiredzi Communal Lands. Government has since repealed SI 50/2021, which stated the reason of their displacement as establishment of a dairy project and replaced it with SI 51/2021 which states that the land would be set aside for an irrigation project.
The latter is not affected by the repulsion of the former, effectively implying that the threat of eviction still remains.
The organisation now wants government to also pronounce itself in terms of SI 51/2021, which leaves a cloud of uncertainty over the future of the Shangaan people on their land.
It also urged the Parliament of Zimbabwe to repeal the Communal Lands Act and introduce a land law that gives Zimbabweans on communal lands security of tenure.
The government was also called to respect the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of local communities in line with the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and Dendairy (Pvt) Ltd should publicly renounce its interest in acquiring Chilonga Communal Lands.
“The repealing of SI 50, in as much as it provides relief to the affected villagers, does not extinguish the threat or uncertainty lingering above the Shangaan community because the land remains excised from Chiredzi Communal Land,” CNRG said in a statement yesterday.
“For the people of Chilonga, their right to that land remains taken away. The land was grabbed through SI 51 and there is no declaration what that land is for now. The uncertainty created by this remaining Statutory Instrument infringes the right to agricultural land and property rights of the occupiers of the land.
“The fact that the excised land is no-longer theirs means that effectively they are squatters and can be evicted anytime. Who knows, maybe someone is having title to the land being processed.”
According to CNRG, SI 50 set aside 12 940 hectares for the purposes of Llucerne grass farming and was later amended through SI 63A to indicate that land has been set aside for irrigation purposes and was no longer under the jurisdiction of Chiredzi Rural District Council, which adds to the intrigue.
In SI 51/2021, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, through Section 6 (1)(b) of the Communal Lands Act, cut out the same hectares effectively rendering it not part of Chiredzi Communal Land anymore.