27 April 2014

Zimbabwe: Chingwizi Flood Victims in Protest March

Over 100 women from the Chingwizi transit camp in Masvingo province, victims of the Tokwe-Mukosi floods, yesterday staged a demonstration at Ngundu Growth Point over "inhumane conditions" at the camp.

The women, who walked 130 km for almost two days to get to Ngundu, said they were unhappy about the way the government was handling their grievances.

They also blamed government for backtracking on the promise to allocate them four hectares of land per family. The government is now offering only one hectare per family.

Business came to a halt at the growth point as the women, some with babies strapped to their backs, blocked traffic on the busy Masvingo-Beitbridge highway and waved placards for close to two hours.

The demonstrators complained that they were being subjected to inhumane conditions at the camp characterised by the shortage of food, health facilities and decent accommodation.

"We are a family of seven and we are given 10kg of maize meal per week. Most of the food is being looted at night by some officials who come here at night with their vehicles," said one of the demonstrators. "Moreover, the land we have been given is too small as compared to what we used to have back home."

They were also angry that government wanted to allocate them new plots without first compensating them to enable them to purchase resources to start building new homes.

The women said they feared that government would dump them and forget about them once they were resettled.

"We want the four hectares that we were promised. We want to farm on dry land which we are accustomed to, not sugarcane wetlands," another woman said.

The women said they embarked on the journey from Chingwizi in Mwenezi district on foot on Thursday and arrived at Ngundu in the early hours of Saturday.

They were carrying placards and banners that denounced the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Masvingo, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and the Mwenezi District Administrator (DA), Anesia Chauke.

The women said they decided to demonstrate at Ngundu, which is close to their destroyed homes, in a bid to make clear their plight.

They further claimed that they previously held such demonstrations at Chingwizi but were often threatened by politicians at the camp.

The visibly tired and weary women said they were also facing serious shortages of sanitary ware.

Police battled to contain the women, who openly defied them and continued to sing and dance, accusing Bhasikiti of lying to them and using intimidatory tactics to silence them.

However, after the police had managed to stop the protests, the women proceeded along Masvingo road saying that they were going to their original homes in the Tokwe Mukosi basin.

"We want this message to reach our President Robert Mugabe that Bhasikiti and Chauke are treating us like animals. We have no food at the camp. Bhasikiti is no longer visiting us and DA Chauke is discriminating us," said another demonstrator.

Bhasikiti and Chauke could not be reached for a comment as their phones went unanswered.

About 20 000 flood victims were relocated to Chingwizi transit camp.

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