A government minister has queried attempts by the Zimbabwe National Army to evict villagers living adjacent to Llewellyn barracks in Umguza district, saying soldiers and locals must live harmoniously with each other.
Over 105 villagers, who were settled in the area in 2000, said they were on November 21 given a seven-day ultimatum to leave their homes by soldiers using loud hailers.
But villagers represented by Sengweni and Sons law firm filed an urgent High Court chamber application seeking an order barring the soldiers from evicting them.
The High Court last week ruled in their favour.
Following the court ruling, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo held a meeting with the villagers where he pleaded with both parties to exercise restraint.
“We get embarrassed that the government resettled people in 2000, a new law was enacted in 2017 and people are told they are illegal settlers and their homes must be demolished,” Moyo said.
“What kind of administration is that?
`We are one. The people and government are one. So the army and the people are one.
“You must live in harmony with these camps.
“It is good for you now to call each other to plan on where you will celebrate Christmas together.”
Moyo, who brought together stakeholders such as the Lands ministry, the army, president’s office and police, said the evictions were being conducted without his knowledge despite him being the Zanu PF Matabeleland North chairman.
“I called the Bulawayo police because this area is under Bulawayo province’s policing,” he said.
“I told them that they were the ones who were telling people that they must vacate without my knowledge.
“They said they were given an order and I asked them where they got the order without me giving them.
“Whether you like it or not, I am the father of Matabeleland North, both in the party and government.
“It’s me who calls the shots here. I am the eyes of the president, whether you like it or not.
“People are evicted without me the father of the province knowing, what does that mean?
“I will not allow that during the rainy season when you start your plans.
“People are busy and are being given inputs to farm and you plan to evict them?”
Moyo said other stakeholders such as the president’s office and the district development coordinator, who chairs the district lands committee, and the Lands ministry were also in the dark about the evictions.
“So go and stay at your homes, start planting and do not have headaches,” he told the villagers.
“The responsibility is with the Lands ministry, army, police, president’s office and my office to identify who is living in the military radius.
“But before they do that, I want the statutory instrument in question to be brought so that I see it and also show you.”
The military is saying villagers are not supposed to live within a two-kilometre radius of barracks, but Moyo wants alternative land for the victims to be identified first before they are moved.