Zim forced flood victim removals - HRW

2015-02-03 18:46
President Robert Mugabe. (File: AFP)

President Robert Mugabe. (File: AFP) (Robert Mugabe )

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Harare - The Zimbabwe government used violence and restricted humanitarian aid to force about 20 000 flood victims to resettle on tiny plots earmarked for a sugar cane plantation, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.

The one-hectare plots are on a farm that has close links to President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party, the rights group said in a 57-page report.

Under the government's plans, the flood victims are required to grow sugar cane on Nuanetsi Ranch in the southeastern Masvingo province to contribute to a government-owned ethanol project.

"The Zimbabwean government has stopped at nothing to coerce 20 000 flood victims to accept a resettlement package that provides labour for a government project, but leaves the flood victims utterly destitute," HRW's Dewa Mavhinga.

"The Zimbabwean government should immediately give the victims adequate aid without conditions and compensate them fairly for their losses."

Mavhinga told a news conference that the villagers were displaced from their homes a year ago when floods hit the Tokwe-Mukorsi dam construction area, in Masvingo province.

Mugabe declared the floods a national disaster and appealed for $20m from donor agencies to assist in relocating the villagers.

Despite promises of compensation and new houses for the displaced villagers, nothing has been done, HRW said.

"They [the villagers] do not have access to adequate food, shelter, sanitation and potable water," Mavhinga said, adding that the villagers were living in tents.

The massive Tokwe-Mukorsi dam project, which began more than a decade ago, is near completion and is expected to assist in power generation and irrigation projects.

Some of the flood victims were already slated for resettlement prior to the emergency, but had resisted moving without receiving fair compensation for their property.

"The government used violence and intimidation to quell protests, and restricted food distribution and health and education services to those who refused to accept government resettlement plans," the report said.

The flood victims told HRW the new plots are too small to support their families and that they are being given no choice but to grow sugar cane for a project that will not be fully operational for seven years.

HRW said the circumstances surrounding the floods were "suspicious", suggesting that they could have been prevented by letting out water downstream.


Read more on:    hrw  |  zanu-pf  |  robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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