Statement by the Restoration of Human Rights Matabeleland South – 22nd September 2016

The Restoration of Human Rights Matabeleland South is this morning working with the people of Matobo district who are being evicted from their villages to make way for the expansion of a government farm which has been leased to private investors.

The disgruntled villagers last week gave a notice to the police on their intention to demonstrate their displeasure at being evicted from their traditional villages of over a hundred years.

The villagers wanted to demonstrate their displeasure to the District Lands office in Maphisa and leave a petition of plea for the country’s Presidency to intervene and protect them from the evictions.

Police have since barred the villagers from carrying out the demonstration citing reason that the police do not have enough manpower to man the demonstration.

Surprisingly, days before the scheduled day of the demonstration there is already an unusually high presence of bussed in heavily armed police patrolling at the quiet growth point and surrounding villages.

These innocent and otherwise peaceful villagers have tried to follow all the necessary procedures to have their case heard but there appears to be no going back on the evictions hence their decision to invoke their constitutional right to a peaceful demonstration.

The Restoration Of Human Rights International strongly condemns the continued banning of citizens’ right to peaceful demonstrations by the police and state machinery.

We are more disturbed by this particular case where a community of predominantly elderly citizens is barred from exercising their right to be heard as they cry for their right to land more so land of their forefathers in an independent Zimbabwe.

It is particularly sad to note that these villagers are being evicted from this land which they were settled in when the colonial settlers first arrived in the country and moved their forefathers from the fertile lands over a hundred years ago.

In an independent Zimbabwe, which is prioritising the land redistribution exercise and empowerment of the local people, it is very disturbing to see these villagers being put through the same process that their forefathers went through in the hands of the settlers.

The Restoration Of Human Rights is currently involved with the villagers helping them to get legal representation from Abammeli Human Rights Lawyers in Bulawayo, to be accorded their right to demonstrate tomorrow and present their petition and be given the right to remain on their land.

Updates

24/09/2016, 07:30 Just to update you that we had a very hectic two days, yesterday and the day before. We have been dealing with a difficult situation in Matobo where villagers are being evicted from their homes to make way for an extension of an ARDA farm. After our intervention to get them a court order to demonstrate, the villagers tried to hold their demonstration yesterday but 40 of them were arrested by the police. 17 were released and 23 were charged and are due to appear in court in today. We got them lawyers who were in Matobo until very late last night. Our Matobo District Chairman is today monitoring the situation for us in court and will update us as it unfolds.

24/09/2016, 12:58 After a long wait since morning. The 23 Matobo villagers arrested yesterday are finally on their way to court. There was no magistrate to try the case since morning. At one moment they were arrangements to move the 23 to be tried in Gwanda probably tomorrow but there was no transport. Finally a magistrate has just arrived from Esigodini and the court will be starting shortly. The 23 are represented by Kholwani Nyathi of Mabhikwa Legal Practitioners on behalf of Abammeli Human Rights Lawyers as arranged for the 23 by the Restoration of Human Rights Matabeleland South who have been liaising with the villagers throughout their ordeal. This is not the end of the fight to protect the villagers from the eviction from their land but only just the beginning of a long battle which needs all of us to unite and resist corruption and absolute misuse of power to harass innocent citizens to benefit a few. United we shall achieve. Viva Zimbabwe.