BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE/AMOS BATISAYI
AT least 3 000 families in Chemagora, Sikombela, Bhadha and Sibusiso, under Chief Njelele in Gokwe were left homeless after being evicted from their settlements by armed soldiers and police.
The villagers were reportedly settled there by Chief Njelele and Zanu PF politicians during the 2008, 2013 and 2018 election periods.
According to the Environment Management Authority, the area, totalling 54 000 hectares, is reserved for forestry, although some eight farmers own some of the land.
The Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police Support Unit have over the past week been demolishing property belonging to the settlers.
The villagers, who were allegedly ordered to vacate the area before harvesting their crops, are now camping along the Gokwe-Kwekwe Highway.
Some of the affected villagers told NewsDay that they blamed Zanu PF politicians and Chief Njelele for using them as pawns during elections.
The villagers also bemoaned the little time they were given by the authorities to leave the area, saying they needed to harvest their crops first.
Nehemia Musakiri (75), a villager who had been in the area for close to 19 years, said he got the land at the height of the land reform programme.
“I have been living in this area for 19 years after moving in during the land reform programme, which was spearheaded by former President Robert Mugabe. Since then, many Zanu
PF parliamentary candidates have been to this area seeking for votes and they promised to legalise our stay, but they did not,”Musakiri said.
Sandra Mutisi also narrated her ordeal, saying in 2013 soon after elections, their homes were demolished and they were forced to stay in makeshift houses for more than a month.
“Former legislator Doroth Mhangami promised to legalise our settlement, but we were surprised as armed soldiers and police came and destroyed our homes. We were forced to stay
in the open for more than a month,” she said.
Mutisi added that in 2014, former Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko came and addressed villagers, assuring them that they were safe and would not be evicted.
The land dispute has caused the arrest of Chief Njelele, who is accused of illegally parcelling out land in exchange for money and cattle. Recently, a farm owner was killed by illegal settlers after he allegedly fatally shot one of them in a land altercation.
Chief Njelele appeared in court on Thursday last week in connection with the matter. He is out on free bail.