At one time former Zimbabwe Tourism Authority boss, Karikoga Kaseke reportedly said it is better to develop building structures on a wetland as opposed to trying to preserve natural ecology.

What he meant was that development on a wetland may go on even if it disturbs the ecology of a wetland, as long as it is for economic gains.

The ZTA boss said over US$300 million will be invested in the new 300-bed hotel, adding that such a huge investment can’t be dropped only because people want to save a few frogs.

An additional US$580 million would be invested in the construction of a shopping mall adjacent to the hotel, he added then.

He said already, over 500 locals were working on the site, while over 3 000 jobs would be created once the hotel and shopping malls have been completed.

He was referring to the building of a hotel on a wetland near the National Sports Stadium, at Longcheng Plaza.

While in some instances, environmental gains could be easily sacrificed for economic gains, it is a different story when people are evicted to pave way for a company’s desire to expand its operations.

At least 12,000 villagers in Chilonga, Chiredzi, face imminent eviction from their ancestral lands to pave way for a dairy company owned by a white farmer with links to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Dendairy, which is based in Kwekwe, intends to farm lucerne grass which is used for stockfeed. With its high protein content, lucerne has the highest feeding value of all common hay crops.

Local government minister July Moyo last Friday published a notice in the Government Gazette announcing:

“The area of land described here under in terms of this schedule shall be set aside with effect from the date of publication of this notice for the purpose of lucerne production.

“Any person occupying or using the land specified in the schedule, otherwise than by virtue of a right held in terms of the Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21,05), is ordered to depart permanently with all of his or her property from the said land by the date of publication of this notice, unless he or she acquires rights of use of occupation to the said land in terms of section (9) (1) of the Communal Land Act (Chapter (20,04).”

In 2016, Mnangagwa revealed that he had “worked very well” for 40 years with Neville Coetzee, the owner of Dendairy.

He also admitted shielding the Coetzee farm in Kwekwe from the land reform exercise because of their “good nature.”

Former local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere said instead of evicting the villagers, Dendairy could pursue contract farming and empower the local communities to do the production.

“A new form of apartheid and separate development has no place in Zimbabwe. The people come first,” Kasukuwere wrote on Twitter.

He added: “Investment should be sensitive to the people. I hope wisdom has not departed those in office. Decisions must be sustainable.”

The Masvingo Centre for Research and Development (MACRAD) has questioned the legality of the local government minister’s directive.

“Anytime soon we are going to challenge Statutory Instrument 50/2021 because it’s illegal. The minister can’t evict citizens without a court order.

“Section 16 of the Constitution also imposes an obligation upon the government to promote and preserve cultural values and practices which enhances the dignity, well-being and equality among Zimbabweans,” MACRAD said in a statement.

MACRAD director Ephraim Mutombeni said the affected Xhangaan (Shangaan) communities were also unsure of where they would be relocated.

“They don’t know if there will be schools, clinics, hospitals and roads or other infrastructure at the places where they will be relocated to, if they are to be evicted,” he said.

MACRAD said the gazetted land in the south eastern lowveld measures 6,000 hectares.

Top government officials including Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, July Moyo, and Ezra Ruvai and have tried to facilitate dialogue between Dendairy and the affected communities without success. -Zwnews/ Zimlive