MASVINGO - A joint police and army revenge blitz yesterday left thousands of Chingwizi settlers out in the open while at least 300 were arrested following the violence which saw two police vehicles being burnt on Saturday.
The police vehicles were torched in a long-drawn impasse over compensation and the flood victim’s intended relocation to one hectare plots.
Officials from NGOs in the area confirmed the early morning raid that left several wounded from the attacks.
The camp, housing more than 20 000 villagers was cordoned off from journalists but the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) confirmed the arrests.
Soldiers were roped in after the police were overpowered in earlier clashes that saw them being disarmed and two of their vehicles torched by the villagers.
A source who witnessed the blitz said the soldiers and police who were on a rampage, beating up everyone they came across.
“They combined with the police, made a surprise raid and started beating up everyone. Others fled while those who remained have been arrested. Everyone, be it the disabled, women and children were beaten up,” the source who preferred anonymity for fear of retribution said.
Philip Shumba, of Mutendi and Shumba law firm, who is heading a ZLHR legal team representing the villagers, said by Saturday, a significant number of villagers had been arrested.
Other ZLHR attorneys representing the villagers are Collin Maboke of Ruvengo and Maboke Legal Practitioners and Martin Mureri of Matutu Kwirira and Associates.
“By Saturday, more than 80 were arrested and the arrests continued. They are detained at Triangle Police Station in a fence as the cells cannot carry all of them,” Shumba said.
Yesterday, more police lorries were seen ferrying more villagers to the police station, about 15km away from their camp.
Acting Masvingo Provincial police spokesperson, assistant inspector Nkululeko Nduna was not picking up his mobile phone when called to confirm the arrests.
The villagers on Friday torched two police vehicles when they were resisting the relocation of their clinic to one hectare plots which are nearby, demanding compensation before the move.
A day before, anti-riot police fired teargas to disperse the rioting villagers.
A villager who spoke to this reporter said thousands were left homeless after soldiers heavily armed with AK 47 assault rifles ransacked the camp.
“It’s like a war zone at the camp. We managed to escape with my family but scores of fellow villagers were beaten up by soldiers and police.
They also lost their tents that were set alight,” said a villager who declined to be named.
This comes as Government is failing to raise $9 million needed to compensate the villagers who were displaced and lost their property during evacuation following the Tokwe-Mukosi floods early this year.
Two months ago, the villagers also dressed down Provincial Affairs Minister Kudakwashe Basikiti after he said that part of their compensation money was directed to teachers’ salaries.
Efforts to get comment from the ZNA here were fruitless.