A humanitarian crisis is looming in Buhera Central at Denhere village in Manicaland province where police armed with a High Court order destroyed nearly 30 homesteads, leaving close to 300 villagers homeless in a land dispute involving two headmen.
The families are now in dire need of food, clothing, shelter and identity documents following the torching of their homesteads by the police last month. A deputy sheriff from Chivhu led police details to Denhere village where they destroyed the homesteads.
But it has emerged that the police and the deputy sheriff targeted the wrong homesteads in a case of mistaken identity, according to human rights lawyer, Passmore Nyakureba.
The families are now staying in the open without any food as their granaries were also destroyed.
One of the victims, Lucia Muguduru, says she has been living in the open for a couple of weeks, and one of her relatives may have died because of the current cold weather.
Muguduru said, “My nephew died of pneumonia because of the cold after our home was razed down. I lost my turkeys that had just been hatched in the disaster, all the food, documents, school children books and school bags. Nothing was spared and ever since my helath has been failing because of this.”
Another villager and victim of the Buhera disaster, Rhoda Nheya, says they urgently need food aid.
Nheya said, “For now what is urgent is food. We need food as we lost everything. We also need shelter as we have nothing left to call home. We are in great need of new houses.”
Villager Ndina Pedzisayi says she also lost everything including her children’s school uniforms, books, bags, food reserves and clothing.
Pedzisayi said, “I have lost everything and this is affecting my children’s education. All this happened when I was away from home.”
Local headman, Nyasha Matsvai, says he is having sleepless nights as some of the victims have died while those remaining do not have shelter and food.
“The biggest problem we have at the moment is food and housing as the people are living like destitutes. We would appreciate if we have assistence I reconstructing our destroyed homes. The children are the hardest hit,” said Matsvai.
Local Lawmaker Ronald Muderedzwa says this man-made disaster could have been averted.
At the same time, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association or ZimRights, this week donated some clothes to the affected villagers.
Cynthia Manjoro of ZimRights says her organization will look into some issues affecting the villagers, who do not even have access to safe-drinking water.
Human rights lawyer, Passmore Nyakureba, says the victims will soon take the matter to court as the deputy sheriff demolished wrong homesteads.
He said the police, who destroyed the houses in Mafusire area in Buhera central, had a High Court order which gave them the power to evict the villagers, whom they believed to be illegally settled in a disputed area.
APPEAL AGAINST EVICTION
The lawyer said there has been a long running dispute between two headmen in the area, identified as Marambanyika and Kotsanai Denhere over villagers who resettled on his farm and sought a court order to have them evicted. The villagers under headman Kotsanai Denhere filed an appeal against their eviction.
The villagers were represented by lawyer Leornard Chigadza when the eviction ruling was delivered. They failed to raise money to pursue the case. Nancy Madzivire of Zimrights is now in the process of filing a case against the state for allegedly destroying the villagers’ homes without giving them alternative accommodation as stipulated in the new constitution.