The Masvingo Centre for Research and Development (Macrad) started operating in Chilonga and Masimavele areas long before the law which ordered the immediate eviction of the Hlengwe-Xangani from their ancestral land was passed.
That was long before Dendairy declared and published its interest in the land.
Since then, we have been working with over 30 village heads around the subject area.
The fears of the Hlengwe-Xangani ethnic group commonly referred to as the Chilonga community are not unfounded.
Without any consultation, the government ordered hundreds of families in Chilonga and Masimavele area to immediately pack their bags and disappear. These are not allegations.
Through Statutory Instrument 50 of 2020, the government ordered every person residing within the identified area to “depart permanently with all of his or her property from the said land”.
It was only after public criticism and court applications that the government took one step back and withdrew the decree.
Fast forward to February 2022, Dendairy finally came out open to the public and declared its interests in Chilonga and Masimavele.
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The company published a statement highlighting that the communities concerned will be engaged.
Part of the statement reads: “After dialogue at leadership levels, the engagement process will cascade to the villages for accuracy in the interpretation of the project facts”.
Before the publication of the statement, Dendairy’s corporate communications officer had a meeting with journalists at the Flamboyant Hotel in Masvingo.
She explained that the project will convert the Chilonga and Masimavele into a green belt that is export driven and will transform the region’s way of doing agriculture while drastically lifting the standards of living
While, Dendairy has highlighted that the community in question “will be” engaged, it is on record that the minister of State Affairs and Devolution for Masvingo, Ezra Chadzamira has said consultations have already been done.
Whilst addressing journalists last year, he said villagers in the area and all other stakeholders were consulted “and they understood”.
He went on to accuse “the opposition and activists” of misguiding and confusing the villagers.
On March 13, 2022, The Sunday News, a national newspaper published an article titled “No one will be displaced in Masvingo”.
In what has been described as a press conference, the minister said no one would be displaced through Dendairy’s lucerne project.
The “no one will be displaced” mantra was also repeated by the government’s lawyer, the Attorney General during the constitutional court application which was filed at Harare High Court by Livison Chikutu and others.
Ironically, the AG hinted that “those who might be affected will be relocated and adequately compensated”.
Fears of displacement among the Hlengwe Xangani Community are therefore justified.
Dendairy has said its “community engagement teams are on the ground, continuing with relationship building with locals in Chilonga and Masimavele as part of the project implementation process.”
On the other hand, the village heads that we work with maintain that there have not been any consultations with villagers.
They are surprised that Dendairy is conducting meetings with journalists in hotels, some hundreds of kilometres away instead of engaging the concerned villagers.
Contrary to the minister of State’s sentiments, the majority of the village heads are yet to be engaged by the government or at least the Chiredzi district development coordinator.
On February 11 2022, several village heads representing thousands of villagers in the Hlengwe-Xangani community petitioned the government over how “what appears to be consultations” are being done.
The community leaders insisted that they are not against development projects being implemented by the government.
They are only concerned in the manner in which the project is being implemented.
They allege that the authorities are selecting individual village heads whom they are whipping to rubber-stamp the project.
The previous day, Chiredzi DDC had called for a meeting in which only four out of about 20 village heads per ward were selected to attend.
Dendairy representatives were part of the meeting.
The petitioners alleged that these meetings are being done in a partisan manner and without any transparency.
They further alleged that Zanu PF DCC members are being invited to these meetings.
The village heads also complained that the meetings are being conducted in Chiredzi town, an area which is difficult to access from Chilonga and Masimavele.
They say even if they are eventually invited, they have to cross flooded rivers to access Chiredzi town.
They pay 50 rand per head just to cross the river with a boat.
The trip will cost them at least 300 rand.
A few weeks ago, a vet officer riding a motorcycle was swept away by flowing water at Chilonga bridge whilst trying to cross the flooded Runde river.
More than 10 lives including that of a ZRP Sub Aqua Unit member have reportedly been lost at that bridge this year alone.
The villager’s concern that Dendairy must come to them for consultations instead of doing meetings with journalists in hotels and with a few selected village heads in Chiredzi is justified.
As a non-partisan organisation that has been supporting sections of the Hlengwe-Xangani community and most particularly women, we welcome any government initiative that is destined to upgrade the lives of the people. –MacradCalls for electoral reforms get louder F
or the past two decades, the call for electoral reforms in Zimbabwe has received prominence. As the 2023 elections draw closer, opposition political parties like the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and some civic organisations are beating the drums for electoral reforms as they claim that it is because of the unevenness of the playing field that Zanu PF are consecutive winners while the opposition has been reduced to permanent losers.
It was widely reported in different mediums, especially at the turn of the new millennium that elections have been marred by violence, intimidation of the electorate and manipulation of election institutions like Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). Sadly, because of this manipulation of election management bodies like ZEC, there has been a vicious circle of disputed election results and for the past two decades, the nation is trapped in that never ending contested election results. The resulting effect has been the brewing of a legitimacy crisis, and the big question is: when will this end?
As a constitutional democracy, Zimbabwe is guided by her supreme law. Accordingly, the constitution of Zimbabwe (section 156 (a), affirms that democratic elections should be simple, accurate, verifiable, secure and transparent. In view of the fact that we are not an island, we also abide by Sadc, AU and UN statutes that govern democratic elections in Africa.
According to the document prepared by the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, Citizens Coalition for Change, there is need to observe the supremacy of our constitution as the guiding charter in ensuring regular, free, fair and credible democratic elections “depicting separation of powers of the executive, judiciary and parliament”. The Principle for Reliable, Inclusive and Credible Elections (PRICE), is to feed into the electoral reform bill, a brainchild of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network and other civic organisations advocating for media reforms. The draft bill was presented to the parliamentary portfolio committee of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs but is still to be formally presented to parliament through the Justice minister before public hearings are carried out to get more input from the public.
A cursory look at the document reveals that it touches on the transparency of the voters roll, its effectiveness and reliability, the need for a common, inclusive, transparent, traceable and auditable Real-time Results Management Transmission system of all presidential, parliamentary and local authority election results among other priority areas.
As the need to have an even electoral environment continues to gather momentum, Zimbabwe continues to seek closure to electoral results contestation. It is a Zimbabwean issue and the great people of Zimbabwe are capable of providing a solution to the electoral challenges that have characterised the elections for more than two decades. After all, it is for the benefit of the nation to have legitimate leaders who are elected freely, fairly and in a transparent manner. –Mamuse NasonFeedback
In my quest here at Lupane to expose corruption I have been subjected to verbal abuse by church members, threats of arrests, litigation framed as if it emanated from a court judgement (I am still brooding over this document from a legal practitioner), dirty looks from individuals and innumerable other expressions of contempt directed at my person.
Some prominent persons in the town after reading my piece in the press ganged up and went to the market place in a (vain ) attempt to incite women traders to come to our home to assault me because “uStobart uthi liyizifebe, hambanini liyomtshaya” “Stobart says you are prostitutes, go and beat him up”.
That is corruption writ large — when corruption becomes second nature.
Referring to the church whose members verbally abused me for two years I tried to approach the magistrates court concerning the use of a school hall by the church worshippers without following the laid down procedures, but each time the front office kept proffering excuses which to me were flimsy and plainly unbelievable.
Probably this front office staffer was a member of the church in question.
Corruption, once it becomes second nature corrupts us to a point of no return. As they say.
Fortunately, the Ministry of Education in Bulawayo came to my rescue by not only agreeing with my numerous letters of “complaints” but also upholding 95% of the concerns raised therein, this after an hour-long interview at the said school before a committee from the said ministry.
These are the occupational hazards of independent social commentary. When we start in a race we must run it to the finish, win or lose.
In our endeavours as social commentators inflexible principle and the tenacity of the savanna tick are a requisite. –Martin Stobart