Remember Chingwizi villagers

HARARE - It started mildly and before one could realise, it had gone beyond imaginable proportions.

The waters of Tokwe-Mukorsi dam had flooded its banks into homes of villagers living nearby, claiming lives and properties in its wake. Within days, the entire Tokwe Mukorsi flood basin was submerged in water.

The flooding was caused by torrential rains. In the wake of the floods, over 3 000 families were affected and property worth millions of dollars was destroyed including other damages that cannot be valued in monetary terms like trauma, distress, health, psychological and other social issues.

In its response, the Zimbabwe army relocated 3 000 families from the flooded Tokwe-Mukorsi dam basin to the Chingwizi transit camp in Mwenezi district, Masvingo province, about 150 kilometres away from where they lived.

The displaced people were not consulted about their relocation site, as required under international standards, and were later forced from the transit camp to plots.

The human cost of the flooded Tokwe-Mukorsi dam basin was most dramatically expressed through the planned forced displacement of nearly 20 000 villagers.

The phenomenon of forced displacement in Zimbabwe demonstrates that despite the formal establishment of an expended Bill of Rights enshrined in the new Constitution, freedom from displacement remains an ideal, far from being realised.

Thousands of Chingwizi villagers were flagrantly denied their basic social, political and economic rights.

Moved by the helplessness of the victims, lawyers Collins Maboke, Phillip Shumba and Martin Mureri pitched in to help those affected by the floods in Tokwe Mukorsi to assert their rights.

They offered free legal information sessions to the flood victims. Inevitably, conflict between the government and the victims was brewing, and 29 villagers soon fell foul with the law for demanding compensation. The villagers were battered by police.

The lawyers argued in court that the affected villagers’ constitutional rights had been violated. In detention, police fenced the suspects in the open, exposing them to the cold winter nights. The lawyers secured freedom for them.

Meanwhile, 80 more villagers were arrested and the figure dramatically ballooned to 300 after more were picked up and detained at Triangle Police Station. Again the three lawyers were on hand to help.

These lawyers who handled the case waived their fees. In all, the lawyers spent thousands on litigating the cases and rightly deserve the Human Rights of the Year award.

These three attorneys deserve a pat on the back for volunteering their services to the flood victims.

Comments (1)

The fight against the Karanga pple by Mugabe and his condoms continues!

First - 19 December 2014

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