EASTERN NEWS | Families flee Arda Transau

MUTARE - ARDA Transau — a State-owned farm-turned-residential area for people displaced by mining activities in the rich Chiadzwa diamond fields, where the country’s political elite and securocrats are accused of minting billions — has been an embarrassing paradox, a paragon of poverty.

After almost a decade of sinking further and further into poverty, dozens of frustrated families are now fleeing the area in yet the clearest indictment on government’s failure to manage their relocation.

Each of the over 1 200 relocated families were promised a fat cheque as compensation, another half-hectare under irrigation and various other empowerment projects with some companies building infrastructure for poultry production and equipment for other income-generating projects.

None of the companies kept their promises beyond offering food assistance for a few months following relocation and agricultural inputs in the ensuing farming season.

All relocated families reminisce daily about how they were all walked along the garden path with government ministries and departments holding their hands in assurance.

Instead of living large — they were soon starving, polygamous families at war among themselves at the inadequate infrastructure that was ill-suited to their family setups.

Now their patience has run out and many want to escape this settlement.

Arda Transau Relocation Development Trust (ARDT) executive member Tawanda Mufute confirmed that many families are now selling off the four-roomed houses and thatched kitchen huts on a half-hectare plot for a few thousands to just have enough to give themselves hope of rebuilding their lives away from the peri-urban environment where they are being told to pay for water and other amenities — a novelty that requires a constant income which they now lack.

“Many families have lost hope that their situation will ever improve and have started to flee.

“Those who have resources are setting up homes elsewhere but others are selling their houses and integrating in nearby rural communities,” Mufute said.

The houses cannot fetch much though as they were built hurriedly so that they could just get the families out of the way and 80 percent of the houses now have yawning cracks some of which reveal what is in another room and even outside.

More than 50 houses had their roofs partially blown away by mild winds in the past three years.

Almost everyone interviewed complains that they have become worse off than they were back in Chiadzwa as they have to adapt to an urban settlement pattern and all its attendant demands.

Some are returning to Marange albeit further away from the diamond fields, he said.

Closure of diamond mining companies following government seizure of all diamond extraction operations deepened the crisis as most families had at least a member employed.

“The decision by government to withdraw licences from companies that it was working in partnership with exposed the community to worse poverty as our children’s salaries were helping as we would support each other by trading among ourselves and hiring those who had nothing,” Shame Marange said.

Some families are breaking up because of the destitution they are now faced with, forcing some women to barter their bodies for food.

“This community has been sliding into dangerous levels of poverty where some married women are forced to sell their bodies to put food on the table.

“As elders, we are being overwhelmed with presiding over disputes relating to infidelity, especially among some of the poorest members of our community,” Blessing Mufute, another member of the ARDT executive said.

The relocation area has been a huge embarrassment to most of its residents — with many adults suffering from malnutrition related complications like marasmus as people starve.

Pressure to generate income has also spurn child labour previously unheard of in the community as children skip school to vend firewood 10 kilometres away in Odzi.

It is during such trips that some women are alleged to be also engaging in prostitution, destroying these destitute families in the process.

Even the school infrastructure is inadequate as it only has three schools — two primary and one secondary — which are all crammed in the western end of the settlement, pushing young children to travel long distances.

Chirasika Primary — the biggest of the schools — has children learning in shades exposing them to the vagaries of the weather.

Centre for Research and Development director James Mupfumi slammed government for failing to protect the relocated families because of its failure to enact appropriate legislation.

“This is a clear failure of the government’s relocation programme. There are no laws governing relocation in Zimbabwe.

“Zimbabwe ratified the UN convention on protection and assistance of internally-displaced persons in 2013 (the Kampala Declaration) but it has not passed legislation to back the treaty.

“The Constitution demands human rights protection in resource governance but the new dispensation is yet to demonstrate its commitment to uphold those rights as there are no urgent measures taken so far to realign policies such as the mines and minerals act to the Constitution,” Mupfumi said.

 

Mbuya Sauti’s marriage on the rocks

The couple treated neighbours and passersby to a public drama in the populous Sakubva high density suburb last Thursday morning with Mabhiza wanting to move out after he was taken to task for failing to sleep at home the previous night.

Mbuya Sauti had not bought his story that he had slept out assisting a client, suspecting infidelity instead.

A frustrated Mabhiza tried to walk out on the relationship with his elderly partner but did not want to leave any of his used clothes which she would not release claiming she had bought them.

“She is refusing with my clothes saying she bought them but as a rule, I don’t leave anything that I’ve put on,” Mabhiza told Eastern News during the fracas.

The acrimony, however, flies in the face of claims attributed to Mbuya Sauti that she would allow him to sire children with another woman since she is past child-bearing age.

She has five children herself while his only child passed on early last year.

He believes the girl died because he had violated his spiritual rituals.

Mabhiza maintains too that the couple is yet to be intimate in line with their spiritual rituals as they move towards the full consummation of their marriage.

While they appeared to have settled their differences — with Hwezhaz paMusau or Madzibaba Kheda — as Mabhiza is known in other circles, claiming all was well, they were back at each other’s throats in the evening.

This time he was claiming he was leaving and even threatening to go to the police to help him move out.

“She is saying I can’t eat because someone spotted me with a parcel of meat earlier so I can’t take it anymore . . . she wants to treat me like her child. She should stay with someone her age,” Mabhiza told Eastern News in an unsolicited interview.

Asked if his guiding “mermaid spirit” had not foreseen this, he said he was even being told by it to walk away from the relationship.

“She listens to so much gossip . . . my spirit is saying I should quit this,” he said.

The couple grabbed headlines last month with their wedding-like ceremony which they said was a traditional ritual to unify and seek spiritual approval of their relationship to their mermaid spirits.

It involved Victorian wedding rituals of cutting a cake and feeding each other as well as a feast for friends and relatives but also an evening visit to a river near Mutare Girls High School just outside Mutare’s central business district.

Mbuya Sauti had said the ritual was well received because a pot of raw rice floated in the water at the end of the ceremony when its career slipped and fell while they also saw a white chicken at their home the next day.

“None of my neighbours have any chickens, it’s not a broiler and no-one has missed their chicken,” she said with a smile then.

She also argues that it was normal for female traditional healers to marry younger men hence there was no need for anyone to cringe at their relationship.

Mabhiza, who revealed he also lived in with his former elderly employer in South Africa a few years ago, said he prefers older women as he should avoid too much sexual activity which would diminish his powers.

He said in an earlier interview that he had gone against his mermaid spirit’s wishes and married a young wife but the child died because of his insubordination.

Mabhiza claims to having been initiated into occultism when a mermaid took him into the water and later brought him back to land in Bikita when he was a sixth grader.

He claims to have died and come back to life while in Form Three and to having been able to raise someone from the dead — right from the coffin for a night before he died again the next morning.

The couple is not traditionally married as Mabhiza has not paid lobola which is something that he said he was going to do as soon as he was bought a car as had been promised sometime this month.

 

Woman narrowly escapes jail for unlawful borrowing

A WOMAN who took and used her ex-lover’s vehicle without his consent was slapped with a $200 fine after she was convicted of “unlawful borrowing”.

Gertrude Mlambo, was convicted after a full trial by magistrate Perseverance Makala.

She faces a two-month jail stint if she fails to pay the fine.

Two more years were suspended for two years on condition of good behaviour.

She was being charged with unlawful borrowing as defined in section 116 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act chapter 9:23.

It was the State’s case that on a date unknown to the prosecutors but in January 2017, Fungai Innocent Makande handed his motor vehicle, a Nissan Navara registration number AAV-8231 to Clifford Hareki, a mechanic based in Chikanga 1, Mutare, to fix it.

On March 22, 2017, Mlambo went to the garage and asked for the car keys, claiming that she wanted to collect something from the vehicle.

Once she had possession of the keys she then refused to hand the keys back to Makande.

On the same date, she then approached and hired one Clive Jani and proceeded to the garage and towed the car to an unknown location.

Makande then made a police report, leading to an investigation and arrest of Mlambo.

The Nissan Navara was later discovered dumped at the main gate of ZRP Mutare Central Police Station without a fire extinguisher, car battery, bottle jack and red break-down triangles.

The total value of the vehicle and its accessories was $10 000 and property worth $9 670 was recovered.

Brighton Shamhuyarira was prosecuting.

 

Duo up for $2m diamonds theft

TWO men are on trial for theft of 375 pieces of diamonds valued at $2 million from a Chikanga woman.

Tineyi Mudavanhu, 30, and Goodhope Mavhengere, 43, are denying the charges and judgment will be passed today by magistrate Tendai Mahwe.

The duo is being charged with theft as defined by section 113 (1) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act chapter 9:23 or alternatively fraud as defined in section 136 of the same act.

Margaret Nyandura, 57, of Mutare is the complainant in the case.

It is the State’s case that sometime in 2008, the duo and the late Tafadzwa Mahara, Creaven Munyaradzi, Cosmas Jamba, Samson Makombe and Creamson Dzapasi hatched a plan to steal diamonds from the complainant.

On June 2, 2008 they approached the elderly woman purporting to be diamond dealers but when she showed them some of the diamonds they said they did not have enough money to complete the transaction.

On June 3, the team returned and as the diamonds were placed on the table to be weighed two of the accused’s accomplices entered the house purporting to be police officers from the Criminal Investigations Department.

They demanded and took 375 pieces of diamonds from the complainant purporting to have arrested her.

They took the diamonds away purporting to be going to Mutare Central Police Station while leaving the complainant behind. She later made a follow-up at the police station where she discovered that the arrest was a hoax. Four days later, Mudavanhu and Makombe returned to her house and informed her that they were under arrest and in police custody all the while and indicated that they had been given back 36 pieces of diamonds.

She refused to accept her diamonds back. The 365 pieces are valued at about $2 million dollars and nothing was recovered.

Cuthbert Bhosha was prosecuting.

 

'Eastern Highlands business prospects brighten’

FORMER president Robert Mugabe’s resignation in November last year has boosted people’s confidence with the economy, resulting in an increased appetite to spend that saw them enjoy an improved festive season occupancy, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (Haz) has said.

Haz vice president Clive Chinwada told Eastern News in an exclusive interview that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s 100-day target has also added to the gloss by triggering activities from government, quasi-government and investors offering brisk business.

“The political developments appear to have given people confidence in the economy, resulting in an increased appetite in spending over the festive holiday and even during the past exeat weekend.

“Government’s 100-day targets has also generated a lot of activities in government, quasi-government and even the private sector, especially as a result of conferencing and meetings as well as from investors who are travelling around to assess opportunities, resulting in brisk business.

He said Manicaland’s hospitality industry has been primarily serving a domestic market making it ideal to gauge the economic mood of the country.

“If you do not have air connectivity it means you are bound to serve a certain market which usually is local which is our position here.

“Manicaland is pretty a domestic tourism destination and is driven by meetings, incentives, conferences and events. We expect this to continue to drive demand for the province,” Chinwada said.

He said until there is an airport the Eastern Highlands — its diverse tourist package that includes mountains, waterfalls, white water rafting, fly-fishing, bird viewing and impressive array of plant and animal species remain inaccessible to visitors who come into the country and land elsewhere.

 

Council police slammed over kombi chases

COUNCILLORS have raised concerns over Mutare municipal police high-speed chases of commuter omnibuses as it endangers members of the public.

Mutare City Council embarked on a military-backed clampdown of commuter omnibuses operating without parking disks, an operation that has seen impounded vehicles being detained for a mandatory two-weeks before release.

The lengthy detention has piled pressure on drivers to flee council police as they try to avoid losing half their monthly wages and the fines if their vehicles are impounded.

Some vehicles are being chased after for distances more than 20 kilometres out of Mutare city.

Councillor Crispen Dube, however, told a recent full council meeting that the practice was placing the lives of innocent passengers and pedestrians at risk with government having barred the police from doing the same after a series of serious accidents.

“It’s high time we should work hand in hand with Zinara (Zimbabwe National Roads Administration) so that we avoid these high-speed chases before we cause unnecessary loss of life and property.

“We can just get the registration plate and then follow-up on the vehicle later,” Dube said to wide approval.

Police high-speed chases led to several people dying in towns across the country.

Dube also queried the legality of the two-week mandatory impounding for which council has since been taken to court by a transporter.

Acting Town Clerk Cephas Vhuta, however, said it was not council’s decision to impound the vehicles for two-weeks.

“This is a directive that came from the army who introduced it as a deterrent.

“Yes, this has its down side . . . right now, we have a court case of someone challenging the position and is demanding the release of his vehicle,” Vhuta said.

 

Local authority fails to repair toilet

MUTARE City councillors have been taken to task over council’s failure to repair a toilet at Chidzere Flea Market in violation of its own guidelines to shut down any business premises that did not have sanitary facilities.

This has resulted in some councillors threatening acting Town Clerk Cephas Vhuta if he failed to commandeer his management to speed up works that needed urgency.

A charged recent full council meeting had councillors in an emotional roar over council’s laissez-faire approach to business.

Vhuta was ordered to give a deadline for the repair of the toilet.

The toilet also serves the flea market and nearby vegetable vendors who councillors allege are now using the nearby Aloe Park to relieve themselves, causing a public health risk.

“If it was at my place, it wouldn’t take me a day to repair it, so give the directive. Don’t be scared of them otherwise we will grab you by the throat,” a livid councillor Shephard Jojo said amidst cross-cutting frustration at council’s casual approach to work across all sectors.

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