HARARE – Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Zimbabwean government of using violence, harassment and restrictions on humanitarian aid to resettle thousands of flood victims on small plots of land.
In a 57-page report, the rights group documented serious human right violations by the government against nearly 20,000 victims of massive flooding that rocked the Tokwe-Mukorsi dam basin in February of last year.
“The Zimbabwean government has stopped at nothing to coerce 20,000 flood victims to accept a resettlementpackage that provides labor for a government project but leaves the flood victims utterly destitute,” HRW’s senior Africa researcher, Dewa Mayhinga, said.
“The Zimbabwean government should immediately give victims adequate aid without conditions and compensate them fairly for their losses,” Mayhinga added.
Heavy rains and flooding in 2014 caused nearly 20,000 people to lose their homes.
Victims were given no choice but to accept one-hectare plots of land on a sugar cane farm that has close links to President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party.
According to the New York-based rights group, those who refused to relocate without receiving fair compensationfor their property were met with violence and intimidation at the hands of the government.
HRW said the government had restricted food distribution and health and education services to those who refused to comply with the government’s resettlement plans.
“The rights of flood victims are being treated with total disregard by the government,” Mayhinga said.
The researcher added: “The government claims the new plots of land are a permanent solution for flood victims, but the dispute over land tenure shows this is far from the truth.”
The HRW report includes testimony from one Wanisai Muzenda, a widow who asserts that many people had died of malaria in the new resettlement area.
“I have suffered enough; this is unbearable – I wish I were dead,” Muzenda, quoted in the report, laments.Newstimeafrica