HARARE – A regional anti-corruption watchdog has blamed government officials and traditional leaders for the illegal parceling of land at Ngondoma and Chemagora areas, Gokwe South, in Zimbabwe’s Midlands Province, where thousands were displaced as their homes were razed to the ground in recent evictions.script async src=”//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js”>
The illegality of the settlements, according to Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa, was the setting of the scene that saw a joint operation involving the army and police evict scores of villagers from the land last week.
“Houses were burnt, shops destroyed and thousands were internally displaced, including women and children,” ACT-SA says in a five-page damning dossier released last week, which sought to investigate the reasons behind the evictions.
How did villagers ended up settling at Chemagora?
“The people were allocated and from which they are being evicted by Zanu PF which was done during campaigning,” the report reads, adding the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was aware of their existence.script async src=”//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js”>
“ACT-SA gathered that the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) had polling stations in the area, to mean that the villagers were somewhat recognized,” reads the report, which alleges the “greasing of palms and lining of pockets” by high-ranking individuals.
“Some individuals enriched themselves through bribes to allocate the land in question. These included the known traditional leaders and politicians,” ACT-SA said.
All those who illegally allocated the villagers land were not being held accountable and had dumped the beneficiaries of their illegal activity, adds the organization, bemoaning the fact that women and children were being subjected to a lot of suffering, without shelter and other basic necessities.
Extreme cases had seen thousands suddenly become internally displaced persons in the area. A Gokwe Chief, Mishek Njelele, who has been fingered in the illicit dealings has been arraigned before the courts on allegations he divided a farm in Chemagora into smaller pieces of land which he sold to home seekers without the farm owner’s consent.
The report also fingers politicians and government officials.
“Discussions with the victims revealed that they are allegedly resettled by politicians, traditional leaders and officials in the Ministry of Lands and Rural resettlement. The involvement of a government authority such as the Ministry of Lands and Rural resettlement is an attempt to cheat the people into believing the illegal resettlement is genuine when it is not,” it reads.
The villagers claimed they were given the land as part of Zanu PF campaigns in the area, and they felt betrayed by the governing party following the evictions, yet they had been made to pay money and livestock to the Zanu PF leaders and traditional chiefs.script async src=”//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js”>
Meanwhile, the anti-corruption lobby group believes that for the smooth administration of land, political parties should not be involved in the allocation of the resource, adding that officials in the ministry of lands and rural resettlement who participated in the allocation of land to the villagers must be investigated and punished.
The displaced villagers are now in serious need of humanitarian assistance, while there have been growing calls for government to provide alternative land to the evicted people.