Over 200 families in Hippo Valley are now living in the open after they were evicted from their Tongaat Hulet-issued houses by Zanu PF activists led by Zaka North MP Rabison Mavhenyengwa.
According to Tongaat Hulett officials, the activists came and threw out furniture belonging to one manager and several other employees.
“You recall they (Zanu PF activists) took cane land at Section 7 so they are removing staff by force to secure accommodation,” said an official.
Some of the evicted workers were now temporarily housed in the country club while others were staying in the open.
Another source said the activists were also promising a fresh land invasion in addition to the 4 000 hectares of Tongaat land grabbed a few years ago by mostly Zanu PF and military bigwigs.
“Right now trucks are parked at the gate for days and no production is taking place. Tongaat has not been dispatching sugar for several days now,” said the official.
Mavhenyengwa, who was elected chairperson of Chiredzi Production Sugar Cane Association last year, after an acrimonious split from Lowveld Sugar Cane Association, defended the controversial evictions claiming that he has a five-year lease of the house from the government.
“What I am doing is above board and legal, because I have a five year lease from the government. In fact, when we were allocated land here- arrangements were made that we will be given houses. So there is nothing amiss with what we are doing,” he said.
Mavhenyengwa added: “You can write whatever you want but I am now the new owner of this house and nothing is going to change. What I am doing was approved by the government. I told the person who was staying in this house to move out since November last year, but he took no heed; so I was left with no choice but to evict him.” However, the evictions are being met with resistance leading to running battles between new owners and company workers resulting in property destruction.
Zanu PF MP for Chiredzi West Farai Musikavanhu, had to intervene and pleaded with workers not take the law into their own hands after the new owners’ property was dumped in canals.
“I had to intervene and tell the workers to respect the rule of law. In fact I told them to seek other channels to redress their grievances rather than resorting to violence. They need to have dialogue for them to iron out their differences,” he said.
Tongaat Hulet’s secretary for corporate affairs, Adeliade Chikunguru could not be reached for comment on her mobile.
One of the evicted workers said the land grab and disruption of Tongaat activities were a complete violation of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra.
He said Tongaat was one of the biggest employers outside government with 17 000 workers’ future now hanging in balance.
”Is this empowerment drive in the Zanu PF campaign manifesto? As a bona-fide descendant of the Lowveld community and as a long-serving Tongaat Hulett employee, I view this as economic sabotage to the government and also as a deliberate ploy to impoverish the people of Chiredzi and Masvingo province,” said the workers.
“This company is the only meaningful lifeline for all in the province. We are even aware of companies in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Hwange which are dependent upon Tongaat Hulett operations. Zanu PF needs to exhibit even the lowest level of sanity and stop the current madness.”
Zanu PF provincial spokesperson, Ronald Ndava could not be reached for comment as numerous calls on his mobile phone went unanswered.