Sunday, 7 March 2021

NO ONE WILL BE EVICTED FROM CHILONGA : MINISTER

No one will be moved out of the Chilonga area in Chiredzi South for the US$60 million lucerne grass project by Dendairy Company on 6 000 hectares, as the local farmers will become out-growers, and only a few families will have to move within the area to allow infrastructure development.

Political opportunists have been incorrectly speculating that the scheme, approved by the local community itself as well as local traditional leaders and the local council, would see the displacement of thousands of villagers.

Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Ezra Chadzamira said villagers in the area earmarked for the project by the Kwekwe-based milk processor would be incorporated into the project and empowered as out-growers in line with Vision 2030.

Minister Chadzamira said only a few families would be moved from their homes to pave way for some developments under the project, but will still be settled within the same area to benefit from the game-changing venture that seeks to modernise rural Chikombedzi.

While the land use model for Chilonga was being changed from communal to commercial land, this would not result in relocation of people from their ancestral lands.

The Minister berated political opportunists in the opposition circles who were trying to gain cheap scores by misconstruing facts in pursuit of nefarious agendas that do nothing to develop Chikombedzi.

Government had done due diligence and consulted widely with the local community and their leadership to get their buy-in for the massive project. The grass project would be Masvingo’s biggest investment in recent history by private investors, transforming the rural Chilonga hinterland with new modern bridges, roads, a railway line and a factory.

“First and foremost, as Government we want to make it clear that nobody will be removed from their ancestral land under this US$60 million lucerne grass project that is in line with President Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030,” he said.

“We have a few homes that will have to moved as part of the reorganisation that will take place as new developments take shape in the area, but these affected people will still be resettled in the same area because we want them all to benefit from the project as lucerne grass out-growers.”

Government had taken a keen interest in the project to make sure that the local community were not short-charged with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga visiting Chilonga area twice to make sure the community were not excluded from the project.

“We don’t know the motive behind those who are saying Chilonga people will be removed from their ancestral land to pave way for a project to grow grass. We have made sure that our people will benefit as out-growers and Government will not abandon its people.

“We made consultations from the lower levels right up to the political leadership and chiefs, but there are some who are trying to make political capital out of these consultations and spreading falsehoods.”

Under the project, measures were being put in place so that every family benefits from the grass project which will see a new railway line being built in the area to link Chilonga and the Nandi-Sango line.

The railway will be used to export grass to niche markets in Dubai and China via Mozambique.

Modern roads will also be built in the area with the investor also set to fund construction of an all-weather bridge across Runde River on the road which links Chiredzi Town to Chikombedzi via Chilonga.

Villagers use canoes to cross the flooded and crocodile-infested Runde River to travel to Chikombedzi or Chiredzi, the district commercial capital.

“Thousands of jobs will also be created for locals (in Chilonga) as a huge factory will be built to process the lucerne grass for export. There will be a number of infrastructural developments by the investor in Chilonga that will economically transform the area in line with Vision 2030.

“It is unfortunate that some people with hidden agendas are using social media to distort facts and whip up emotions about a very noble project where Government has put in place measures for a win-win scenario between the investor and the locals,” said Minister Chadzamira.

This was corroborated by Chiredzi District Development Coordinator Mr Lovemore Chisema who emphasised that consultations were done with locals to get their buy-in for the project.

“We consulted all the interested parties from the villagers themselves,chiefs and councillors and a resolution was passed in council endorsing the lucerne grass project. The local community raised their concerns and these were noted in coming up with the final resolution supporting the project,” said Mr Chisema.

Chiredzi Rural District Council chair Mr Ailes Baloyi confirmed that the local authority endorsed the lucerne grass project following consultations with the community in Chilonga.

“Council came up with a resolution to back the grass project in Chilonga and there were no objections. Council got assurances that our people will benefit as grass out-growers and they supported the project,” said Mr Baloyi.

Over 6 000ha in Chilonga will be turned into a lucerne growing estate in northern Chikombedzi with water set to be drawn from the confluence of Runde and Chiredzi Rivers.

In an indication of more economic benefits that will accrue to the Chilonga community from the grass project, the investor has already pumped funds towards the revival of Chilonga Irrigation Scheme.

The scheme was revived last year having been mothballed since 2007 owing to water shortages after the water pump was submerged by silt while the water abstraction point could also not continue supplying water following a change of course by the heavily silted Runde River.

Chilonga Irrigation Scheme is now up and running and currently plot holders are harvesting maize on 159ha where irrigation was restored with the help of the investor.

This has already provided food security for communities in arid northern Chikombedzi. Herald 

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