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As the then administrative head of Masvingo province, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti had an uneasy relationship with the flood victims, who branded him as the face of an uncaring government which has failed to deliver on its promises.

THREE months after he was sacked from government, former Masvingo provincial affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti is turning the heat on the very administration that made him unpopular with families whose homes were destroyed by the Tokwe Murkosi floods in February 2014.

As the then administrative head of Masvingo province, Bhasikiti had an uneasy relationship with the flood victims, who branded him as the face of an uncaring government which has failed to deliver on its promises.

Now that he is no longer part of government, Bhasikiti is now speaking the language of the affected families as the Member of Parliament for Mwenezi East.

Last week, he moved a motion seeking urgent government intervention to alleviate the plight of thousands of villagers who were moved to Chingwizi Transit Camp at the height of the 2013-14 rainy season.

“Alarmed by government’s reluctance to address the problems affecting the Chingwizi flood victims, I move that this august House press for urgent intervention in the area,” shouted Bhasikiti to a rousing applause from opposition MPs, some of whom were shouting ‘gammatox, gammatox.’

Gammatox is a derogatory term used to refer to members of the mutilated ZANU-PF faction led by expelled former vice president Joice Mujuru.

Perceived to belong to the Mujuru camp, Bhasikiti earned his sacking amid allegations that he sourced funding used to prop-up the faction.

He strenuously denied the allegations.

When government moved the affected families to Chingwizi, the idea was to then resettle them, with full compensation, within the vast Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi.

To date, very few families have been relocated while the vast majority of them remain in the camp without any compensation.

And now with hunger setting in due to erratic rains this year, the entire 20 000 Chingwizi community is facing starvation and villagers domiciled there feel dumped and neglected by the State.

The motion by the Mwenezi East lawmaker seeks to induce a largely reluctant government to immediately complete the resettlement scheme, provide irrigation because it is a largely low rainfall area and fully compensate the victims — promises that have not been fulfilled since the disaster struck 18 months ago.

Whichever way, this is likely to be received as good news by the flood survivors who have endured a grueuling life since February last year when they were moved to the camp, where they are having to contend with shortages of food, lack of adequate water, diarrhoea outbreaks, the hostile winter, as well as raging storms that frequently ripped their makeshift shelter apart.

Although government has provided land for Chingwizi residents to be relocated from the overcrowded transit camp, only about 600 of the 3 000 families have agreed to the move with the rest refusing to shift before they have been given their compensation.

Government, which has since promised to compensate these displaced villagers, has not yet managed to put together the required funds.

They were promised a combined US$9 million, which translates to about US$3 000 per family, in compensation before they are moved to permanent plots.

Five months on, government has not delivered.

While the villagers were initially promised four hectares per family, this hectarage has since been revised downwards to one, which they are disputing.

Increasing numbers of the vulnerable residents, including breast feeding and pregnant women, children, widows, the physically handicapped HIV AIDS patients and elderly citizens are demanding just treatment.

Bhasikiti’s motion is also likely to further ignite the turf war between him and his successor, Shuvai Mahofa.

Since taking over from him, Mahofa has been overtly critical of Bhasikiti, accusing him of deliberately destroying plush mango plantations at his farm in Mwenezi, abuse of office and divisive tendencies among other things.

Mahofa belongs to a rival ZANU-PF faction led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The issues raised by Bhasikiti put Mahofa under the spotlight.

Source : Financial Gazette