Chingwizi villagers flee into mountains

CHINGWIZI - Thousands of Tokwe-Mukorsi villagers are now living in the bush after they deserted Chingwizi holding camp following violent clashes with the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA).

ZNA deployed soldiers at Chingwizi on Sunday, who reportedly beat up villagers before destroying their tents following violent skirmishes with the police last week.

Villagers protested against government plans to move a local clinic from the camp to new plots they have rejected. They are demanding compensation for lost property.

In February, government relocated 3 000 families from the flooded Tokwe-Mukorsi dam basin to a camp on a sugar cane farm.

Armed police last week visited the camp in an unsuccessful attempt to get the displaced families to accept relocation without compensation to one-hectare plots, where they have been told they must grow sugar cane or lose food aid.

The relocation was vigorously resisted. 

The protest saw the villagers overpowering anti-riot police officers, disarming them and setting alight their two vehicles, forcing government to rope in the army  from Masvingo’s 4 Brigade.

The soldiers ransacked the camp and assaulted villagers.

The relocated villagers have since deserted the camp.

“Chingwizi was turned into a war zone after the military operation and we had to run away from the camp with our families,” said Tonderai Magaya, a villager at the camp.

“We feared for our lives because of the ruthlessness of the operation. We are now living in the open in the nearby bush.”

The villagers said they were facing dangers of being attacked by wild animals in the bush. Chingwizi is located in the jungle.

Others said they were starving as they failed to collect food to feed their families.

“We are freezing in the open as the whole camp has been sealed off by soldiers,” said another villager who declined to be named. “We are afraid to go back because they will beat us up. “We are also facing starvation since we did not have the time to collect our food,” she added.

The villagers also said they lost property and food worth thousands of dollars when their tents were destroyed.

The military operation has seen over 300 villagers being arrested for rising against government and burning two police vehicles.

Human rights defenders have castigated the operation by government labelling it “barbaric.”

“How can government victimise the victims?” said Arnold Muguti, programmes director of Young for Zimbabweans Socio Economic Freedom (YZEF).

“These people have suffered enough and sending police and soldiers to force them out against their will is gross violation of human rights. The operation is barbaric and should be condemned by everyone,”

Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti was unavailable for comment.

Government is failing to raise $9 million to compensate the villagers who have been staying under cramped conditions at the camp since February.

Comments (8)

Any form of protest or resistance against the govt will be dealt with ruthlessly because the current environment is very good for a full blown uprising that can easily topple the govt. If any of these people are ZanuPF supporters then they have learnt the hard way that their party is even more brutal than the Rhodesia Front was.

Zvichapera - 5 August 2014

Zimbabwe ndeyeropa,ZANU chiwororo.Zvichapedzerana kuChingwizi ikoko. People wrongly thought that ZANU PF is for the povo. They will learn the hardest way.

jengetavhu - 5 August 2014

Why should police persuade the people to relocate? Is this their job? Why not leave it to relevant ministries? The relevant authorities should engage the flood victims and convince them what should be done next. I don't see why this became a police issue in the first place. Now this has complicated matters worse. However, I still do not agree with violence agaist police or distruction of their vehicles. These vehicles do not belong to the police, but belong to everybody, including me and the flood victims. I think going forward, police and army should withdraw from Chingwizi, and the correct government departments should deal with this issue in an environment of mutual respect, not confrontation.

machakachaka - 6 August 2014

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First it was Gukurahundi, we kept quite but with simmering anger; then came Murambasvina, we had no-one on our side. The 08 political violence is still vivid in my memory. Democratic space is ever shrinking in modern day Zimbabwe! The Tokwe-Mukorsi saga is a slap in the face for people from Masvingo. By the way, when will HE visit the camp since declaring it a national disaster? Instead he's fiddling at 'his' state house when some people who 'voted' for him put up in the open 34 years after independence; while his innercircle are multiple farm owners. There is no other time to take our plight to the world arena than this comrades! I salute the brave grand mothers and fathers, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and sibblings of Chingwizi!Nothing lasts forever! SALUTE!

variruvhure - 6 August 2014

This is the only county in the world which has terrorised its own citizens. Now we have internal refugees because of some inept officials who sleep on duty. Seriously the money we spent on lavish parties can be used to compensate these people. We have people who have vast tracks of land lying fallow and you give a family a hectare and we call land reform a success.

Maita Manyuka - 7 August 2014

zvamutsana tsuro nembwa makwikwi pachingwizi

EDMORE CHIKWAMA - 7 August 2014

We have ONE centre of power saka kana Grace ati vanhu ngavarohwe mese munotsvukira. Hapana anosara, ask maWarVets.

selele - 10 March 2017

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