SHURUGWI – Some 200 families from Lazy Nine Farm, Banga Village under Chief Banga in Shurugwi South are stranded after the Zimbabwe National Army delivered notices last Thursday giving them 12 days to vacate their homes which have now become part of the military's protected area.
There was an outcry when The Mirror visited Chief Banga's area on Sunday as the families have only until Tuesday to leave but were not given an alternative place to resettle. Most of the families have not finished harvesting their crops and there is no talk of compensation for the homes that are going to be destroyed.
The area is next to Mukandapi Business Centre. Chief Banga born Lameck Toindepi confirmed the development and said he was shocked by the notices which were delivered door to door by soldiers on horse backs.
The villagers who were resettled in the area by Government in 1997 have children that are in school who will be affected by the Army's move.
The Minister of State for Midlands, Jason Machaya said the Army was for the people and he was going to engage it to ensure that there would be an amicable solution to the impending humanitarian disaster.
When asked for a comment ZNA spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore requested for the questions in writing which he did not respond to up to the time of going to Press.
This is not the first time that the Army has evicted people from their homes after declaring resettled villages protected military zones. Tens of villagers near Mpandawana Town in Gutu were recently evicted and left in the open with their property after the Army declared a resettlement area to the West of the town a protected area.
The notices for Shurugwi families were signed by 5 Infantry Brigade Commander G Chitsva.
"Please take notice that you are illegally settled in a millitary Protected, area being Lazy Nine Field Firing Range... Notice is hereby made that the range is used for the conduct of military training exercises involving the use of live ammunition hence extremely unsafe for human habitation, farming and livestock rearing.
"It is against this background that you are hereby directed to vacate such settlements on or before 20 June 2017," read part of the letter by the Five Infantry Brigade Commander G Chitsva.
The affected villagers included those in Bangalore, Donga, Mushwe and Bera area. The farm demarcates Chivi North, Shurugwi and Zvishavane communal areas.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers' For Human Rights Mutare based lawyer, Blessing Nyamaropa said that it is illegal to evict the villagers in such a short notice. Due process must be followed.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission deputy director Ellen Sithole said that she can only give a comment after getting full details of the said eviction.
The village resembled a funeral wake when The Mirror visited the area. None knew where they would go, come Tuesday although they were packing their property in readiness to leave. There were fears that if they did not leave the Army would come and violently remove them.
"The villagers were evicted from this area in 1978 by white settlers who took the land for cattle ranching. However, in 1997 there was engagement between the dispersed families and Government that saw them coming back to their land (matongo avo). The Army is using the other side of the range so we are surprised when they say they are taking over the whole land at the expense of these villagers," he said.
Chief Banga said the army had even demarcated the shooting area to within 50 meters of Banga Primary School gate.
"I am not aware of the move but the Army cannot disperse people without giving them somewhere to go. We are going to engage both the Army and villagers and find a solution to the situation since these people have been staying there for years. It is also the duty of the Army to educate the people on the dangers of staying around shooting ranges instead of just evicting people. Remember the Army is ours and so are the people," said Machaya.
Acting Shurugwi District Administrator Reason Machiya said the villagers are legal settlers.
"The area was given back to people in 1997 and about 170 settlers were moved in there. We are not sure if there were additional settlers who then settled in the army reserve area. Probably those are the ones that have triggered the army to evict everyone in Lazy Nine," he said.
Shurugwi South MP Tapiwa Matangaidze said he would investigate the matter.
Fifty-three-year-old villager Tawanda Ngwenya who has six children pleaded with the Government to stop the evictions because the evicted are going to suffer more because of the current economic hardships.
"Hatingambosuduruki panzvimbo yatagara makore anosvika 20 tikavaka misha, matanga zvese izvi munhu angazvivaka patsva mari ichibvepi. (Its hard to move because where do we get the money to rebuild what we have achieved here over the years)," he said.