Chegutu farm eviction leaves MDC-T families on roadside

Violent Chegutu farm eviction leaves MDC-T families on roadside

SW Radio Africa by Tererai Karimakwenda


October 7, 2013

Homeless farm workers after their violent eviction from a Chegutu farm

The families of eight farm workers near Chegutu are reported to be homeless and living on the roadside after the illegal owner of the farm destroyed their houses last week and assaulted some of the women who tried to resist.

The farm workers at Wakefield Farm in Chegutu, Mashonaland West, were accused of voting for the MDC-T during the disputed July 31st elections and had been told to leave their homes about a month ago. There was no legal procedure followed and the police have taken no action to protect them.

Former Chegutu farmer and activist, Ben Freeth, told SW Radio Africa that Felix Pambukani gathered his family and several plot holders from the area to assist with the violent eviction. They stripped the roofs and doors from the houses and women who tried to stop them were assaulted with knuckle dusters.

Freeth said: “I appealed to the officer in charge at Selous Police Station to make sure if they were going to be evicted that it was done in a legal manner. Once again I went to see the Officer in Charge about a month ago and he assured me he would see it was done in a legal process.”

But this did not happen. The assaulted women were sent to a nearby hospital and released after treatment. Freeth said the police are now charging some of the victimized women, accusing them of assault.

Freeth visited the area with tarpaulins and other goods that the families may need. He said the men are staying along the Harare to Chegutu Highway and the women are back near the farm, trying to keep an eye on their property.

“They are obviously sleeping rough with their children and trying to protect their possessions. It’s a terrible situation that they are in,” Freeth explained.

He explained that Wakefield Farm once belonged to Kenneth Bartholomew, who employed many workers and ran one of the biggest tobacco growing farms in the country. Since the illegal takeover by Pambukani a couple of years ago, many farm workers lost their jobs and those who remained go without wages for long periods.

The evictions were confirmed by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). In a statement the group said Pambukani evicted the workers “following a protest they staged for non-payment of their wages.”

The lawyers group said Pambukani did not have a valid court order, which violates the Constitutional provision for “freedom from arbitrary eviction”.

The police began recording statements from the farm workers after their lawyer, Kennedy Masiye from ZLHR, filed a report at Chegutu Police Station on Saturday. The lawyers said police “had been reluctant in taking action from an initial report filed at Selous Police Station by the workers”.

Many families countrywide have lost their homes since the disputed July 31st election in which ZANU PF claimed a landslide victory over the MDC-T. Illegal evictions are being conducted as punishment for voting against the wishes of local traditional leaders and ZANU PF officials, who had given orders that no-one was to vote MDC-T.

Food is also being used as a political weapon, with MDC-T supporters being denied donated maize and agricultural inputs that are supposed to benefit everyone regardless of their political affiliation.