By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
23 April 2014
Violence has broken out at Chingwizi transit camp where some victims of the Tokwe Mukosi flooding disaster have reportedly attacked fellow villagers for agreeing to leave the camp before receiving compensation.
The families were evacuated from their homes in February and since then have been squeezed in at the camp while waiting for the government to compensate them and to resettle them on new plots.
The government agreed to resettle the villagers on 4 hectares of land and to give them around $4,000 each as compensation to help them rebuild their lives.
But three months later, the government is reneging on its promise, according to Admire Mashenjere, a field officer with the Tokwe-Mukosi Rehabilitation and Resettlement Trust, which lobbies for the rights of the displaced families.
“Villagers are now being forced to move to 1 hectare plots and have been told to move without receiving any compensation. This has not gone down well with some who feel that once they leave the camp, they may never get compensation,” Mashenjere said.
Villagers who had moved to the new plots are said to be returning to the camp in fear after a group of individuals who are resisting relocation before compensation followed them and destroyed their tents to protest what they deem a betrayal by their colleagues.
Mashenjere told SW Radio Africa that even those other villagers who were already settled on 4-hectare plots were being told to move from the land on which they had begun setting up permanent structures.
“We do not want to be crowded like people living in city suburbs. We have already suffered enough disruption without the government making the displacement even more challenging by forcing us to move again to plots where we will be mixed with people from other areas,” Mashenjere added.
The villagers are also worried that the area where the new plots have been pegged has no clean water, no schools and fear that they may starve to death as they say they are already struggling with access to food.
The local Mulale school is said to be struggling to cope with the large numbers of children, with each class said to consist of at least 80 pupils.
“Where I live in Block C, the government has already stopped giving us food although they know that we have not been able to grow anything to survive on.
“There is no borehole and people are drinking unclean water from the river together with animals. The place is also mosquito-infested and the local health facility is full of children suffering from malaria,” Mashenjere said.
The government insists that the villagers have to move to avert a health crisis at Chingwizi camp.
Last week, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo angered the displaced villagers when he ordered them to leave the camp without compensation, and threatened to stop relief groups from feeding the villagers if they kept resisting.
Almost all the assistance for the flood victims has come from international humanitarian groups whose swift response has ensured that the villagers have at least some food and shelter.
On its part the Zim government has been anything but coordinated – failing to respond timeously to the threat of flooding and evacuating villagers to safety and now bungling the resettlement process.
Visitors to the camp have described conditions there as extremely overcrowded with families having to share one small tent.
There have also been outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid due to the unsanitary conditions.
About a fortnight ago the head of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition chairperson, Dewa Mavhinga, said at least seven people had died at Chingwizi due to diarrheal complications.