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» » Hungry Zero farmers plead for help

… allege discrimination in food aid

Monalisa Matongo

The people of Zero Farm have alleged being left out from government’s social welfare food aid programmes and from the presidential and command agriculture input schemes.
The villagers, most of whom say they have lived on the farm for close to 20 years, are under pressure from government which wants them to leave as they are irregularly settled. They have already been served with eviction notices which they have, however, defied.
The settlers now have their own village heads to whom they report their issues, and one of them is Henry Makusha of Chikutuva village who said people at the farm were in dire straits.
“Our people are starving and also need assistance from the government like most of the people in rural areas. Others are getting food and inputs but we are not given anything. We are being treated like second class citizens but we voted for them,” said Makusha.
Provincial Administrator (PA) Fungai Mbetsa said giving the community food aid was not possible because theirs were not recognised villages.
He urged them to go back to their original villages and receive aid from there.
“The government is willing to help those people and they should also benefit. But if they are to be given aid while they are at an illegal settlement, it would seem government is recognising their stay as legal.
“They should go back to their former villages and get their aid from there. This is one of the soft measures taken by the government to make sure they leave the farm. If they continue resisting, more effective measures will be taken. The long arm of the law will catch up with them,” warned Mbetsa.
Some residents also said the threat of eviction had made them more vulnerable, with their own village heads demanding bribes on the promise that they will make sure that those who pay are not evicted.
They accused self-proclaimed headman Ratson Haruzivishe and his aide only identified as Gango of forcing people to pay for otherwise free services on the pretext that he would protect them from eviction.
“We were given trees to plants during the national tree planting day but they are now saying we should pay US$1 per tree so that we will not be evicted. They said they have already paid the MP and the chief with cattle so avoid eviction,” said one villager.

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