from SHELUZANI MAKHESE in Chikombedzi, Zimbabwe
CHIKOMBEDZI, (CAJ News) – MINORITY Tsonga communities threatened with eviction from their ancestral lands have further rejected a new offer by the government to make way for a commercial grass project, arguing the administration’s so-called empowerment of marginalised communities was insincere.
The Tsonga (Shangaan) tribesmen in Chilonga, Chiredzi spurned the government’s offer presented by vice president, Constantino Chiwenga, during a visit to the communal lands.
Chiwenga assured traditional leaders the Lucerne grass project, which the villagers must pave way for, would boost food and nutrition security as well as ensure self-sufficiency while economically benefiting locals.
This, according to the government, is part of plans to transform the lowveld region into a greenbelt, with Chilonga turned into a development hub.
Local villagers, who spoke to CAJ News Africa said were not buying into the proposal and vowed to stay put.
They argue it is a ploy to line the pockets of the elite in the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Locals cited mostly the 4 000 hectares of virgin land at the Kilimanjaro cane fields, which were parceled out to non-locals at the expense of the ancestral landowners.
“We have completely lost trust in the government of Zimbabwe’s controversial policies,” said Amukelani Baloyi from Chinghele village, Chiredzi south.
“If indeed the government is genuine and sincere about its intention to develop our community, let the distribution of the Kilimanjaro virgin cane sugar fields be reversed and start benefitting the locals,”Baloyi argued.
Gezani Tshovani said to earn the VaTsonga to trust the government, the divisive grass project must be run by locals.
“Why not leave the local minority Shangaan people with their land, and then empower them through rented lucerne grass project?” queried Tshovani.
The villager cited the example of the private brewer, Delta Corporation, which has harmonious ties with local communities.
Delta has a partnership with locals whereby it rents their fields and empowers them to grow sorghum, a major ingredient in traditional beer it brews.
“This is contrary to our cruel, wicked and heartless government that only cares about lining up its pockets as well as empowering foreign interests at the expense of its own people,” Tshovani charged.
Chirhilele Chauke also said the lucerne projected smacked of a corruption ploy.
“There is always trouble when hungry leaders watch over cooked food because, surely, they will always have their hands in the cookie jar. Some leaders within the government and civil servants are known to be greedy,” Chauke said.
Last week, upon visiting Chilonga, vice president Constantino Chiwenga appealed for the cooperation of locals.
“Let’s work together. We want a shared and common vision as we come up with projects that will benefit the people of this community (Chilonga). No one must be left behind. To achieve this, we all need to participate in these consultations,” he said.
Chiwenga assured the VaTsonga of more empowerment projects.
He said the government was in the process of ensuring all 59 districts in the country got at least 200 hectares under irrigation.
“We expect everyone to benefit in the agriculture value chain,” Chiwenga said. If the controversial government grass project is allowed to go ahead despite its glaring flaws and dubious partners, then more than 12, 000 local villagers will be evicted out of their ancestral land.
– CAJ News