Under-siege villagers allege further army intimidation

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Sydney Sekeramayi

THE 22 villagers from Chomufuli Farm in Gutu, Masvingo province, whose houses were allegedly razed down by soldiers two weeks ago in an operation to force them off the disputed land, have alleged further army intimidation after they took the matter to court seeking an interdict order.

By Tatenda Chitagu

The villagers last week approached the courts seeking an interim order to stop soldiers from 4:2 Infantry Battalion army barracks at Mpandawana Growth Point from kicking them out of the farm.

They also wanted the soldiers blocked from destroying their homes, harassing or threatening them with violence.

Prior to the court application, the villagers — who were beneficiaries of the fast-track land reform programme in 2002 — petitioned the district lands officer, claiming the soldiers wanted to grab their plots.

In their application, the villagers wanted Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi compelled to stop the attacks by the soldiers, which they claimed started on June 11.

They claimed that soon after their court application was ruled as not urgent, some senior military and government officials toured the farm and accused them of “using the wrong channel and medium” to seek recourse.

Gutu resident magistrate Edwin Marecha postponed the case to July 8.

“They came here to assess the damage, but said we had engaged an MDC-T institution, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, to represent us. They also said the story was published in the NewsDay, an MDC-T mouthpiece, and labelled us MDC as well,” one of the villagers who claimed to be a war veteran said.

“There is no politics here . . . We are even more Zanu PF and patriotic than them because some of us went to war and are bona-fide Zanu PF supporters, while they are just government employees. We approached all relevant government institutions to no avail and we were left with no other option except to approach the courts.”

Another villager queried why the army wanted to take over their plots when they were the ones that were first settled at the place, adjacent 4:2 Infantry Battalion near Mpandawana Growth Point.

“They were just seated during the land reform programme, folding their arms. Now that we chased away the white farmer, cleared the land, they want to take over. Can we as a nation succeed?” he queried.