Minister battles chief

HARARE - A deputy minister has intervened to save 300 families from eviction after the Daily News on Sunday exposed how a local chief was planning on purging villagers he termed “foreigners”.

Reuben Marumahoko, the deputy minister of Regional Integration and International Cooperation, moved in last week to assure the affected families they would stay put.

But it seems this will not happen without a fight, as the local chief insists Marumahoko is offside.

Counter accusations in the villagers’ saga expose how corruption runs deep in Zimbabwe, which is ranked 154 out of 182 countries in Transparency International’s corruption rankings.

Picture Chundu, the acting Chief Chundu, has enlisted the support of the local Hurungwe Rural District Council (HRDC) to evict the families.

Chundu told the Daily News on Sunday two weeks ago that he wanted the families out because they were foreigners from countries such as Zambia who had corruptly acquired land from unscrupulous headmen under his jurisdiction.

The families seemed on their way out of the area and into destitution until the Daily News on Sunday published their story and it caught attention.

Marumahoko, who is Senator for Hurungwe, says the villagers will be allowed to stay, but Chundu says “never”.

A meeting held last week to resolve the issue only complicated matters, with Marumahoko suggesting on using his political power to save the families.

Addressing affected families, Marumahoko said their eviction was “ill-timed” because no alternative accommodation had been planned for them.

He later told the Daily News on Sunday he would work with council to get farms where the affected families could be resettled.

“Those targeted for eviction must be catered for with pieces of land and infrastructure including schools, hospitals built on their new homes,” said Marumahoko.

“Personally, I will work to make sure we find an amicable way out. Council must stop those threats of eviction,” he comforted the families.

Chundu had addressed the same families before Marumahoko arrived at the meeting and made it clear they were a sore sight in the area.

“Those allocated land behind my back are not my subjects and they must move out. The majority of those against me are foreigners whom I will never accommodate here,” he told the families, who interjected him with accusations of being corrupt himself.

“Our chief is against development and does not want anyone who is vocal against his corrupt motives" shouted one villager.

Hurungwe council has already notified the families of their pending eviction.

Affected families are in villages under four headmen, Chikura, Masawi, Tugwe and Nyakasikana.

According to council, they should be gone by this Wednesday.

“You illegally occupied a piece of land in Chundu village Ward 8 without the consent and authority of HRDC in terms of Section 8 (1) of Council Land Act number 20.

No permit has been issued to you to occupy the said piece of land. Therefore you are given notice to vacate the place by July 21, 2012 to August 22, 2012 without further notice,” reads one of the notices to affected villagers.

The notice advises them to return to their places of origin although one of the affected headmen says he has been in the area since 1936.

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