Thousands of protesting Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims resisting relocation of Chingwizi Transit Camp clinic to a new site earmarked for their resettlement yesterday reportedly burnt two police vehicles and disarmed anti-riot police officers in a second clash in two days.
On Thursday, anti-riot police in Masvingo fired warning shots to disperse the disgruntled villagers.
The villagers, who have been camped at Chingwizi Transit Camp since floods ravaged Masvingo in February this year, allegedly turned violent after another attempt by the government to move the clinic in a bid to force them to accept relocation.
They blocked vehicles carrying medical equipment and drugs from the camp saying the clinic should remain at the camp until government has compensated them for losses incurred during the floods.
Officials from non-governmental organisations operating in the area said trouble started after the police allegedly began assaulting them, leading to clashes that saw teargas being thrown at them.
“The situation is resembling a war zone. The police were overpowered and fled the scene after villagers blocked them. The villagers then burnt the vehicles,” said an official last night.
A witness and one of the flood victims confirmed to NewsDay the disturbances. He said many villagers had since fled Chingwizi transit camp fearing a backlash from the police.
“It is true that the disturbances happened again today (yesterday)for the same reasons. Today, the villagers torched police cars when the officers tried to proceed to relocate the clinic. The police fled the scene, but people are in hiding fearing that they will hit back,” said the witness.
Masvingo acting provincial police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Nkululeko Nduna last night could neither confirm nor deny the incident saying he was yet to get a report on the matter.
“Check with me tomorrow, I have not yet received the report as I was out of office,” Nduna said.
Last month, the police post at the camp also went up in smoke in a suspected arson attack.
Two months ago, the government cut food hand-outs to villagers who resisted the forced relocation.
However, the move did not achieve the intended results after only 400 out of more than 18 000 victims voluntarily left.
The displaced villagers were demanding at least $9 million from government before they could leave the campsite and take occupation of their allocated one-hectare plots, which they described as “too small”.
The villagers yesterday said they would not allow medical equipment to be relocated as that would spawn a health time bomb.
Also recently, 10 Cabinet ministers, led by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, left the camp in a huff after they were dressed down by the villagers.
The villagers have resisted attempts to move them to one-hectare plots earmarked for their resettlement, demanding bigger plots and cash compensation for property lost during the floods.