Families who have been cultivating a piece of land on the Zambezi River floodplain for 100 years have been ordered to vacate so that the land is used for raising hippopotamuses.
The land is in Hwange District’s Msuna area and the place is a fishing island with 21 lodges and a number of tourism activities.
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Recently, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) issued $500 tickets to most of the villagers ordering them to leave or face arrest.
A villager who spoke to The Chronicle said that their forefathers settled in the area in the 1920s and they have been growing crops on the island for decades. The villager was quoted as having said:
Six villages are affected. We know there are some tour operators who have influenced the decision so that they have the island for their hippos.
Right now people have been fined $500 each by Ema who have threatened to slash the maize crop which is nearing maturity.
One of the village heads, Rosemary Shoko, said the people will starve if EMA goes ahead and slashes their crops. She said:
People have been cultivating in that area for many decades. They want the land for their hippos which is not right.
Now people’s crops are almost mature and they want to slash them. What will people eat?
However, Hwange District Development Coordinator Simon Muleya confirmed the eviction of the villagers and dismissed as untrue that the eviction was meant to benefit individuals. Muleya said:
The reason for eviction is because they are ploughing near the river which is causing land degradation and siltation.
Meetings have been held with them but they insist that the place belonged to their ancestors who lived there doing stream bank cultivation.
It’s not true that they are being evicted to pave way for some whites.