Villagers attack messenger


At least ten villagers from a remote village in Lupane have been arrested in a brutal police crackdown following the kidnap and savage assault on Monday of the Lupane District Messenger of Court.
Mkhululi Hleza was on Monday afternoon kidnapped by a group of villagers who armed themselves with axes, knobkerries and spears and attacked him while he was attaching their cattle in terms of a court order granted in a land dispute between two neighbouring communities.
The arrest stems from a long standing land dispute pitting villagers from Hulube Resettlement Scheme of Ward 23, set up in the early 80s, against a Zanu PF aligned community which invaded their grazing lands in late 2000. The ‘invaders’ set up 39 homesteads on the piece of land which legally belongs to Kusile Rural District Council.
The Hulube community applied to the courts years ago to seek the eviction of the invaders, who forcefully settled themselves. They argued that the invaders were illegally occupying their designated grazing lands.
Matabeleland North police spokesman Inspector Trust Ndlovu confirmed the incident and told NewsDay in Lupane yesterday that information collected so far was that Messenger of Court Mkhululi Hleza had descended on the illegal settlers at Hulube village to enforce a court order.
The court had ruled in favour of the original settlers of Hulube and ordered that the ‘invaders’ be evicted and that they pay compensation for the loss of their grazing lands.
“The information we have is that the court granted an eviction order against the invaders and that they pay compensation of a beast each to the Hulube community,” Insp. Ndlovu said.
“On Sunday, Hleza managed to collect two beasts; – one from Famile Mlilo and another from Pindi Nyoni and proceeded to Keddy Ndlovu’s homestead where he put the beasts for safe-keeping while he rounded up the remaining 37.
“On Monday morning June 21, the Messenger of Court discovered that the cattle he had collected had gone missing. He and a companion identified as Mchitheki Moyo followed the spoor and discovered that the villagers had re-possessed the cattle. “While he was trying to recover the beasts, the rest of the community mobilised, armed themselves with spears, axes and knobkerries and kidnapped the two men,” Inspector Ndlovu said.
He said Moyo managed to escape but Hleza was kidnapped and held from 8am to 3pm on Tuesday. He was severely assaulted all the while until members of the Neighbourhood Watch found and released him. A report was made to the police leading to the arrest of 10 villagers.
He said the arrested villagers, who were still being held in the cells at Lupane Police Station yesterday would be tried shortly on charges of kidnapping and assault. Hleza is recovering in Lupane where he is reported to be in a stable condition.