THE land ownership wrangle between Matobo villagers and Trek Petroleum continues unabated with villagers accusing the fuel company of grabbing their grazing land as it expands its farming operations.
BY KHANYILE MLOTSHWA
Trek Petroleum last year struck a partnership deal with the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority to carry out farming activities at Matobo Estate, but the project has met fierce resistance from villagers.
Villagers in Matobo’s Zwehamba, Matankeni and Mahetshe areas claimed the project was encroaching into their ancestral lands and also crowding them out.
Matobo senator, Sithembile Mlotshwa, confirmed the stand-off.
“The government facilitated the partnership between Arda and Trek, which is a move for the better that the people welcomed,” she said.
“But Trek found that it doesn’t fit in the fields that belong to Arda and is now extending in the process evicting villagers from their homes and from their farming lands. Top political leaders have been to the area on the project, but none of them were concerned about the villagers plight.
“At first Trek extended (their fields) a bit, and then extended again, and then again. Now the villagers don’t know where these extensions will end,” she said.
Mlotshwa said on Monday she met the affected villagers to discuss the issue.
“This is a serious matter. Some of the villagers were even shedding tears as they really don’t know what will happen with their ancestral lands. The meeting was attended by local councillors Ephraim Nyathi and Sinikiwe Moyo, who is also local council social services committee chairperson,” she said.
“When the culture of a people is not transmitted freely from one generation to another, how can there be peace? This is the question that I want to pose to Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko as the Minister of Reconciliation. We are at a time when people do rituals according to the traditions and culture of their ancestors, but they can’t because their land and ancestors’ graves are being destroyed.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, Trek Petroleum general manager, Onias Sanangura referred all questions to Arda Estate manager in Maphisa, Alex Chinyai.
“The company you may want to talk to in this matter is Arda. Arda are the ones who are extending (the farm) and not Trek.”
Chinyai played down the alleged wrangle, saying: “I am tied up with the Lupane University tour. You are free to come and see (what is happening) any time.”