PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday angered hundreds of Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims when he said their request for irrigation plots near the dam would only be considered later, prompting some to walk out halfway through his speech to mark the official opening of the country’s largest inland dam.
BY TATENDA CHITAGU
The villagers, mostly flood victims now staying at Nuanetsi Ranch and others drawn from as far as Chikombedzi, Mwenezi, Gutu, Zaka and Bikita, said they felt short-changed when Mugabe’s less than one-hour speech failed to address their quest for irrigation land.
“Those not given plots, it is up to you (Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa) to lobby government later,” Mugabe said after the minister had pleaded with government to prioritise the 18 000 flood victims in the allocation of irrigation land around the dam’s catchment area.
The villagers expressed shock that after failing to visit them at the Chingwizi transit camp, where they were housed shortly after the floods three years ago, Mugabe had the “guts” to trivialise their plight.
“We were expecting that the President would address our plight and how we were going to benefit from the dam, but instead he just made a passing statement that our issue would be addressed later,” one of the flood survivors said.
They said they were also bitter that they were made to wait at the site for more than six hours on empty stomachs, only to be told in the evening that the prepared food was reserved for top government officials only.
The villagers also accused the government of seeking to pacify them by releasing their compensation money a few days before the official opening of the dam.
They, however, declined to disclose how much they received.
Mugabe, who looked tired, arrived at the site six hours after his scheduled time and immediately went into a briefing with government officials, visited the dam and later addressed the crowd, repeating the rhetoric of the anticipated spin-offs and benefits to be accrued from the project.