Hundreds of villagers in Binga are facing an uncertain future after the government ordered them to vacate their homesteads to pave way for the $121 million Gwayi-Shangani water project.
According to villagers and senior traditional leaders drawn from Lusulu ward 1 and 2, government has been quiet about their future destination after successful completion of the dam being built by China International Water and Electric Corporation (Pvt) Ltd.
Close to five hundred homesteads, school children and more than 2 000 cattle will be affected by the development.
Community members, as a result, have formed a committee mandated to lobby government district officials about their relocation arrangement and according to multiple letters availed to CITE, there has not been any response.
One of the letters addressed to the District Development Cordinator's office read: "It is regrettable that our previous efforts to meet you have always hit a snag," read the letter.
"We are very disappointed as a community in treating us with such contempt especially following your promise that you would attend the meetings but to no avail considering the gravity of the matter... this relocation issue is negatively affecting us and by virtue of your office, you are expected to provide guidance."
The committee's chairperson Edmond Sibanda from Chiboni village at Lubimbi 2, said the community is not against relocation, but wants to be advised on time and given resources to rebuild their homesteads.
"We are not against the project, but they should engage with us as they try to identify suitable place for us," he said.
"We want to be close to the dam after its completion so that we also benefit in terms of water supply. We want to be in an area where there is fertile land, habitable both for us and our livestock, so therefore we have identified a place in an area opposite halfway house, this is why we are desperate to meet government officials and suggest the area."
A villager Tongai Ncube said his main concern was development of infrastructure fearing that the health and education system was going to be negatively affected.
He said this will be the first time villagers in Lubimbi will be relocated.
"The country's interests come first and we are not rejecting or refusing to be relocated but our concerns should be taken on board as well," he said.
"Our history is that in 1947, we were between Kana and Shangani rivers and government of that time came and forcefully vacated us before fencing the area marking it as Cold Storage Company (CSC) and we were made to cross Shangani River and settled in Lubimbi.
"Here, we have already invested so much infrastructure and our livestock have acclimatized with the environment, so we want to be given a platform to submit our solution regarding this issue while we also benefit from this project."
However, for widow Emma Nyoni (79) relocating to a new place will be hard for her as she does not have capacity to build anymore.
"It is not going to be easy for me because years back after we were relocated from Kana area, I started to rebuild this homestead. Then it was easy and my husband was still alive. I am worried that this time I will not be able because I now live by myself."
The state minister for Matabeleland North province Richard Moyo, however, said villagers will be notified once the land has been availed to them.
He said they are still in talks with various ministries and local leadership regarding their concerns.
"Government projects are done in stages," Moyo explained.
"They will be told where to go, but for now we are engaging with traditional chiefs, ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Local Governance, and ministry of Rural Resources and Water Development. We need to construct roads, drill boreholes and schools for them so that is what we are doing."
The dam with holding capacity of 635 million cubic meters is expected to ease perennial water shortages in Bulawayo and other surroundings.
It is set for completion next year.
Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)