225 small-scale Sinazongwe farmers face eviction

ABOUT 225 small-scale farmers in Senior Chief Sinazongwe’s area are to be displaced because their land has been sold to some Chinese investors by their traditional leader.

But Senior Chief Sinazongwe said the land has not been sold to the Chinese.

His subjects, he said, requested to have an irrigation scheme and that the Chinese were constructing a dam.

The senior chief explained that the villagers were asked to apply to Government for an irrigation scheme and that the list of names was prepared.

The farmers however said they were shocked that their names and wrong signatures appeared on the list in question which they discovered at the High Court in July this year and more shocking was that there were some names of dead people on the same list.

The farmers, who stormed the Daily Nation offices, complained that Brothers for Africa, a Chinese firm, was given the mandate to cultivate in their farms by chief Sinazongwe without consulting them.

The farmers alleged that since 2007, there had been plans by the Chief to have them displaced and beacons were put in their farms and when they inquired he told them that they were for irrigation purposes.

They explained that in 2012 after noticing that the senior Chief was determined to have them displaced, they started inquiring the motive behind the beacons but they could not get reasonable answers from the senior chief.

“We asked Senior Chief Sinazongwe but he told us the land will be used for irrigation. We only saw surveyors come in 2013 and immediately a Chinese firm known as African Brothers Company moved on site and started to construct a dam and irrigation canals.

“We again confronted him and a project manager from the Small Scale Irrigation Project (SSIP), a Mr Sampa said the dam will be for irrigation but could not state whether our land had been sold to the Chinese. After pursuing the matter with the senior chief, police officers started arresting us and threatened us if we questioned why the Chinese company is working on our land. The chief knows what we are talking about and we challenge him to deny if some of us were not arrested,” they said.

The farmers said that after noticing that the chief was determined to displace them they wrote letters to the district commissioner, and all heads of government departments in Sinazongwe explaining their predicament but nothing fruitful came forth.

They explained that it was not the first time Senior Chief Sinazongwe was displacing his subjects because he allgedely gave 3000 hectares of land to the Gwembe Valley Development Company (GVDC).

The farmers however said despite the injunction to halt the construction, the African Brothers have continued to construct a dam and efforts to have the matter heard in court failed as the file whose cause no is 2013/HP/1410 allegedely went missing.

They said they had since involved the Anti-Corruption Commission and officers from the Supreme Court who helped to locate the file on 11th July 2014 but up to nowthe matter has not been allocated to a judge.

But when contacted Senior Chief Sinazongwe denied the allegation and said that it was the idea by the villagers to apply for an irrigation scheme from Government.

He said they were advised by Ministry of Agriculture officials in Southern Province to form a cooperative and they agreed and contributed K20 each

“I have not displaced them. This irrigation is meant for them and it is the second of its kind.

All villagers came together and signed the list that was drawn and I am not the one that signed on the list. As for those whose land was taken by GVDC, they were compensated and those people are telling lies.

They took me to court but I won the case because they were the ones that signed on the list.

“They are supposed to apologise to me because we even took people for training to know how to operate the machine for the irrigation pump.

I see no reason why they are doing this to me. They have not come to apologise so that we get together.

They are bad people, do write the story and I will take them to court because I didn’t grab land like that, I am a mature person for I have been heading these people for 30 years now,” Chief Sinazongwe said.