Human Rights Watch has urged the Zimbabwe government to investigate the circumstances leading to devastating floods at Tokwe-Mukosi Dam and take action against those that are responsible if they were deliberately induced to force villagers to work in a nearby Zanu-PF owned farm.
The organization says displaced Chingwizi Camp residents and Tokwe Mukosi Dam project workers contend that the floods were artificially induced with authorities flooding the area to forcibly evict people without compensation and hire them as low-paid workers on a sugarcane farm jointly-owned by President Robert Mugabe’s party and Billy Rautenbach, a businessman and ruling party supporter.
According to Human Rights Watch, some of those evicted said they should not have been moved because they were far from the flood areas, but believe that they were moved to work on the Zanu PF sugar farm.
“Dam workers said the flooding itself was artificially created, which they believe was done to evict residents without paying them compensation.”
The Zimbabwe government denied the accusation saving the families have had ample time to plan for their move from the dam, where construction started in the 1990s.
The Chingwizi transit camp has some 3,100 tents, allowing just one tent per family regardless of family size. (Photo: Human Rights Watch)
Provincial Resident Minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti said,” These (Human Rights Watch) are very mischevious characters. You cannot get people to deny the truth and reality when it is facing them. You fail to understand what their motive is because the floods in terms of preparing for the dam, enough was done and all the analysis backdating to 40 or 50 years of rainfall patterns was used for the study.”
But three men who were relocated told Human Rights Watch that armed Zimbabwe air force soldiers forcibly evicted them unnecessarily and without compensation.
One of them said, “The so-called floods at Tokwe-Mukorsi are a myth. There were no floods at all. What happened is that those in charge at the dam closed the sluice gates in the dam to prevent water from flowing downstream thereby causing floods upstream in the Tokwe-Mukorsi dam basin.
“When armed soldiers came to evict us at the end of January 2014 we pleaded with them to open the sluice gates and allow water to flow downstream of the dam but they refused. The leader of the soldiers who addressed us said, President Mugabe directed that this dam should be constructed so that it contains water in it, and you ask us to let the water out? No. It is time for you to leave now. You will receive your compensation later, when [the] government gets the money’.”
Human Rights Watch says the government should ensure that the basic rights of all displaced people at Chingwizi Camp are respected, including providing them with prompt and adequate compensation.
“The government’s previous pledge of five hectares of land per family to grow crops of their choice should be respected. Any pressure on the displaced to become sugar cane contract farmers should cease.”
In early April, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, warned the displaced families to accept relocation to the plots at Nuanetsi Ranch or face denial of food assistance. “We should make it clear that food assistance will only be given to those families who agree to move to their permanent plots, because we need to decongest Chingwizi temporary camp,’’ Chombo said.
Before moving from Tokwe-Mukosi, the displaced people had been promised five-hectare plots per family, where they would be free to grow crops of their choice.
During their relocation to Nuanetsi Ranch, indications are that hundreds of families lost household property and livestock. At Chingwizi camp property left in the open for several months has been destroyed.
Human Rights Watch says the camp is severely overcrowded, with each family allocated a one-room tent regardless of the number of family members. Although international agencies are providing potable water, aid workers told Human Rights Watch that there was inadequate water for the entire Chingwizi population, raising serious health concerns.
Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said in April that Chingwizi transit camp houses over 20,000 people, which poses a huge health risk. He did not, however, indicate what measures the government would take to ensure full access to health care for the displaced people at the camp.
Zimbabwean police on patrol at the Chingwizi transit camp for over 20,000 people displaced as a result of the flooded Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam. (Photo: Human Rights Watch)
uman Rights Watch said, “Without access to a livelihood, the displaced people have been relying on food provided by international aid agencies but distributed by the government. Several Chingwizi residents told Human Rights Watch that the government food aid is inadequate and distributed irregularly without notice.
“Thousands of school-age children at Chingwizi have had their schooling disrupted or no longer have access to education. A makeshift school set up near the camp is not adequately equipped and staffed to meet the children’s needs.
There have been widespread allegations that Masvingo police and provincial officials responsible for distributing food, blankets and clothing have diverted some of the aid to the neighboring towns of Triangle and Chiredzi, where they are sold for profit.
Human Rights Watch visited Chiredzi and Triangle and confirmed that goods meant for the displaced at Chingwizi were being sold in the two towns.