GOVERNMENT has started shifting goalposts on who will compensate thousands of villagers and businesspeople likely to be displaced during the dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge Highway, with Transport minister Joram Gumbo yesterday failing to explain convincingly whose responsibility compensation was.
By Tatenda Chitagu
This came as villagers and business operators along the busy highway have insisted on payment of compensation for their structures before they agree to relocate to other sites.
In June this year, Gumbo claimed that the Austrian contractor, Geiger International, which won the tender for the dualisation of the road, would foot the compensation costs.
But yesterday, Gumbo sang a different tune, saying the Lands and Transport ministries would jointly compensate the affected villagers.
“I am tired of the same questions from Masvingo journalists,” he thundered.
“How many times do you want me to tell you that when there is such a development to take place, the Lands and Transport ministries will compensate the villagers?
“When there is such a national development, the people have to be compensated.”
When called again, Gumbo said something different.
“That question will be answered in due course. At the moment, we do not know who is going to be compensated,” he said.
“As we are speaking, the surveyors are on the ground.
“We will avail who will compensate the villagers.
“But as you are aware, it is the duty of the State to compensate those affected.”
Gumbo said the total amount to be paid to those affected by the project would be known after assessing their properties.
The $984 million project, commissioned in May by President Robert Mugabe on a build, operate and transfer basis, is envisaged to be completed in the next three years.
But villagers and businesspeople, who requested anonymity, said the government’s shifting of goalposts had left them confused, given that the State failed to compensate villagers displaced by the construction of the Tokwe Mukosi Dam.
The Tokwe Mukosi flood victims are still owed $7,3 million, according to Masvingo provincial administrator Fungai Mbetsa.
“We received $1,5 million from central government to compensate about 1 995 Chingwizi villagers.
“A total of $7,5 million is outstanding. What we received is 20% of that amount, which is $750 for each family and the money is being transferred directly into their bank accounts,” he said.
A Masvingo businessman, whose shops are likely to be affected during the dualisation exercise, expressed fears that he might not receive compensation for his buildings.
“We really need to know the truth before we are displaced. We also demand compensation first before we are moved, otherwise we will go the Tokwe Mukosi way,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“We really need to know who we will face when we need to be compensated. Otherwise we will be played merry-go-round with government and Geiger, the contractor.”