Home » Human Rights » The Struggle Continues for Tokwe-Mukosi Families

FEBRUARY 2014 was a black month for many Chivi villagers of Masvingo Province. The month brought with it incessant rains which resulted in relentless floods that destroyed ancestral homes of thousands of families in the Tokwe-Mukosi area.

The villagers also lost household property and other family treasures passed from generation to generation.

Others lost livestock, principally cattle.

Conservative rural traditionalists who treasure cattle as a measure of wealth and status symbol were hardest hit.

Following the disaster, Government evacuated the affected families from the flooded basin to the safety of Chingwizi holding camp in Mwenezi.

Most affected villagers were grateful for escaping alive, at least.

They had hope for a new start.

At Chingwizi government undertook to resettle them on even more spacious pieces of fertile lands.

Relocated villagers would also irrigate their crop using Tokwe-Mukosi dam water, to complete the relocation project.

Promises of a better future inspired the flood victims to endure long and difficult nights in the rain.

Some put up in classrooms together with their remaining belongings hoping for a soft landing at Chingwizi.

To many villagers relocation would mark the beginning of a slow but gradual process of rebuilding their broken lives.

Restless school children, pregnant women and people suffering from different chronic ailments, all thought the flooding and subsequent challenges were a temporary setback that would soon disappear upon their arrival at Chingwizi camp.

Today they are worse off.

Nearly four months after moving to Chingwizi and with very little having changed in their lives, the families’ patience is running out.

A dark cloud hangs over Chingwizi camp where the veneer of hope amongst the villagers is being replaced by desolation.

The flood victims lament a plethora of unfulfilled promises ranging from compensation to the size of plots where they will grow sugarcane under irrigation upon completion of Tokwe-Mukosi dam.

Many families are now “paupers” in the holding camp after their property was damaged during the relocation exercise.

“I have nothing on me except my family and the few belongings. If I do not get compensation from government my family will remain a charity case.

“I have been waiting for money so that I can slowly rebuild my life,” said Mr Augustine Kwangwari, a camp dweller at Chingwizi.

He says government should first give the families something to enable them to easily settle down at their new plots.

“Government cannot expect me and my family to leave this camp and stay in the bush with nothing to help me start afresh.

“How will we stay at the permanent plots when we have nothing, why not pay us our money so that we can rebuild our lives?” he complained.

Mrs Anna Koke, a widowed mother of two, says government should deliver on its promise to allocate each family four hectares saying the one hectare they are offering is a mockery.

“Authorities who are now going back on their promises have let us down.

“We will not leave this holding camp unless we agree on the size of our plots, how can I sustain my family on such a small piece of land?” she queried.

She added: “It is unfair for government to force us to grow sugarcane under irrigation.

“Some of us do not wish to be sugarcane farmers at all, our wishes must also be respected, we came from Chivi and we want to be allowed to continue with our way of life.”

They are still surviving on handouts.

“We never expected that four months on we will still be queuing for the latest consignment of donated goods. We want to be empowered so that we sustain ourselves. It is really bad that we are dependent on aid for almost everything, we are fed up with such a life.”

The majority of Chigwizi camp dwellers are adamant. They will stay put until government compensates them.

However, other camp dwellers, like Mr Mamutse Batirai whose 10 cattle died after being trapped in a lorry during translocation from Gunikuni in Masvingo district to Chingwizi, have no plans to move to the permanent plots.

“This area is almost like hell. I want my compensation then I will look for land to build my home back in Gunikuni.

“What pains me is that I have not received compensation for my 10 cattle that died.

“How am I going to start my life afresh when I have virtually nothing? The loss of my cattle pains me and I never imagined this dam (Tokwe-Mukosi) will give us such misery,” said Mr Batirai.

However, Mwenezi assistant district administrator Mrs Elisa Chauke, who is also the holding camp administrator, maintains that the flood victims’ woes will soon be a thing of the past.

Mrs Chauke said decongesting the holding camp was top of government’s priority as that will prevent outbreak of diseases.

“We are setting up infrastructure such as roads, clinics and schools at the permanent plots that are ready for occupation.

“We have increased the number of trucks ferrying families from two to five and we are happy with the pace.

“Of course there are some who are resistant but the majority are very willing to move on,” she said.

Three schools will be built at the permanent plots and children will attend classes at the start of the second term.

Drilling of 20 boreholes is also underway on a belt stretching for 20km along the Mbizi railway line in the Nuanetsi ranch.

Signs of fatigue are creeping in amongst companies and organisations that used to provide aid.

Food stocks are dwindling, most critically mealie-meal.

An average of 123 tonnes of maize are required every month to feed the Chingwizi camp dwellers.

Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Kudakwashe Bhasikiti conceded that all was not well at Chingwizi in terms of food.

“We only have enough food to last the flood victims for two weeks and if no new donations come in there is going to be a problem. We appeal to companies and individuals to continue supporting the flood victims who will require food assistance until after harvesting their own crops next year,” Cde Bhasikiti said recently.

He added that government was working on providing maize grain to Chingwizi camp dwellers soon through the Department of Social Welfare.

“We are looking at the possibility of giving the flood victims grain which is not easily perishable. The maize will be channelled through the GMB depot at Rutenga,” said Cde Bhasikiti.

He added that government was looking for nearly US$9 million to pay off the families for damaged homes and property.

However, he said, government had no money for compensation at the moment adding that this should not hamstring relocation of families to permanent sites.

“We are in the process of creating acknowledgement of debt forms that will be issued to every family that has not been compensated and the forms will state clearly the amount of money owed by government. The money will be paid subject to availability of funds,” he said.

Minister Bhasikiti warned that those who continue resisting relocation to permanent sites risk losing monthly food rations because government wanted to diffuse the ticking health time bomb at Chingwizi caused by overcrowding.

While a small water purification plant has since been installed at the holding camp, the crowded conditions continue to raise g fears of outbreak of diseases. Cde Bhasikiti also alleged there were some subterranean forces bent on frustrating government plans to properly resettle Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims.

He cited the recent demonstrations by a group of women at the holding camp and violence in newly opened up areas as clear examples of covert efforts to sabotage the resettlement programme.

“It is clear that there are some underground forces that are trying to cause chaos at Chingwizi and are instigating the flood victims so that they refuse to be properly resettled.

“Those people never wanted the flood victims to be resettled in the Nuanetsi ranch from the onset but their efforts will be in vain,” added Cde Bhasikiti.

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have also come under the spotlight for not doing enough.

Only about six NGOs namely Unicef, Bhaso, Oxfam, IOM, Christian Care and Save the Children remain on the ground at Chingwizi rendering assistance while the majority of them which are notorious for making a lot of political noise have largely remained indifferent to the plight of the flood victims.

National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations Masvingo co-ordinator Mr Benias Tirivaviri attributed the invisibility of NGOs at Chigwizi to lack of resources and donor fatigue caused by the global economic recession.

Statistical data released by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing has shown that about 98 percent of aid extended to the flood victims came from local companies, organisations and individuals with only two percent coming from donor organisations.

This means that flood victims at Chingwizi will for the foreseeable future have to do with assistance sourced locally. This is despite government making an international appeal for help in the wake of flooding in the Tokwe-Mukosi basin and downstream areas that was declared a state of disaster by President Mugabe. With government burdened by a shortage of resources caused by the prevailing harsh economic environment and the heinous illegal economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West, the flood victims seem set for a long haul grappling with challenges ranging from lack of adequate clean water, food and even their compensation.

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Source : The Herald