MASVINGO — The completion of the country’s biggest inland water reservoir, Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in Chivi, faces another hurdle after thousands of families evacuated from the dam basin and settled at Chingwizi transit camp in Mwenezi trooped back to press government for compensation.
The return of the villagers into the flood basin will further add to the problems bedevilling the completion of the dam — which went on a start-stop process from 1998 and resumed in 2009 — as work at the site has been suspended again due to lack of funding.
Flood victims’ spokesperson Mike Mudyanembwa said: “Many are leaving the camp going back to the flood basin. They do not care if they will be affected by floods again because either way, our future is ruined here.”
Government owes the contractor, Salini-Impregilo Joint Venture, more than $70 million.
The villagers — numbering over 20 000 — had been living in squalid conditions in the overcrowded camp since February before they trooped out following an outbreak of violence last week.
This was after some of their colleagues had agreed to be resettled on one-hectare plots in the nearby Nuanetsi Ranch.
Government had initially promised to pay them $8 million as compensation for the damage to their property and loss of livestock as well as improve their living conditions before resettlement.
But six months down the line, the villagers were now worse off and government had resorted to forcing them to move to one-hectare plots nearby instead of the initially promised five-hectare plots.
First, government cut food hand-outs for those resisting relocation, but the move, widely condemned by human rights groups, did not yield the expected results as only 400 villagers complied.
Humanitarian organisations which were assisting government later pulled out after realising the “insincerity” of the Zanu PF administration.
And the government, overwhelmed by the responsibility to take care of the villagers, applied another scorched-earth method to make the villagers budge by trying to relocate a clinic in the camp so as to force the villagers to follow.
But the move was met with stiff resistance by the villagers, leading to clashes which resulted in the burning of two police vehicles by the angry villagers. Four villagers are currently on remand pending trial in connection with the violence.