The thousands of flood victims in Zimbabwe’s Tokwe-Mukorsi dam basin now have something that has been in rare supply: hope.
On Saturday, the newly appointed minister for Masvingo province, Shuvai Mahofa, welcomingly acknowledged that the government had made a number of mistakes, which she promised to correct. Her comments were in reference to a campaign of violence, harassment, and the deliberate restriction of humanitarian aid to coerce the 20,000 residents to resettle on tiny plots of land where the government plans to establish a sugar cane plantation.
In February 2014, thousands of families were forced to suddenly evacuate their homes and abandon their livelihoods due to massive flooding, which most observers believe could have been avoided. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission conducted its own investigations and concluded that the Tokwe-Mukorsi flooding “was not natural, but man-made disaster.”
Among the numerous human rights abuses that the flood victims suffered, as Human Rights Watch documented in a recent report, was the government’s coercion of the victims to accept one-hectare plots of land on a farm earmarked for growing sugar cane that has close links to the ZANU-PF ruling party. Mahofa has now promised to ensure that the flood victims are moved to Chiumburu Farm in Chiredzi where each family will be allocated a five-hectare plot of land.
The flood victims have an urgent need for humanitarian assistance including adequate food, shelter, safe drinking water, access to sanitation, and health services. The victims are also still waiting for their promised compensation payments to be able to rebuild their lives.
As part of the promise, Mahofa should ensure genuine consultation and participation of the community as well as a transparent process for provision of basic services, payment of compensations, and a voluntary resettlement to a suitable and secure place. As the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission recommended, the government should take appropriate measures to ensure that people are resettled on productive land that supports livelihoods and is suitable both for crop and livestock production.