via Minister flees angry villagers – NewsDay Zimbabwe 16 July 2014 by Tatenda Chitagu
MASVINGO Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and several senior government officials on Monday made a hasty retreat from Chingwizi holding camp in Mwenezi as angry Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims booed and heckled him demanding compensation before they move to nearby resettlement plots.
The situation became volatile when Bhasikiti told the flood victims that the millions of dollars raised for their compensation had been diverted by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa to pay civil servants’ salaries.
This was the second time Bhasikiti was heckled and humiliated by the villagers who have been in the camp since February.
In May, Bhasikiti was part of 10 ministers who were booed and heckled by the flood survivors forcing them to leave the camp prematurely. The ministers included Local Government minister, Ignatius Chombo, and his Energy counterpart, Dzikamai Mavhaire.
On Monday, Bhasikiti went to Chingwizi with armed riot police in a bid to contain the restive crowd, but the villagers forced him to cut short his speech as they booed him and refused to chant Zanu PF slogans.
They vowed to stay put at the camp where there has been an outbreak of diseases such as diarrhoea, gonorrhoea and syphilis.
Other villagers have threatened to return to the flood basin from where they were displaced.
Bhasikiti had visited the camp to persuade villagers to move to the one-hectare plots partitioned for them while awaiting compensation, which he said was being processed.
They did not listen to what Bhasikiti had to say and all hell broke loose when he told them the government had raised part of the $9 million needed for their compensation, but the money was diverted to pay civil servants’ salaries.
“The President had ordered Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa to scrounge for money for your compensation. Chinamasa got some of the money for your compensation, but the problem was that there was no money for civil servants’ wages,” said Bhasikiti.
“We said there was going to be chaos if civil servants did not get their pay. Therefore the money that was meant for your compensation was diverted to civil servants’ wages, but we are trying our best to look for your money. There is an order that even if it means looking for a loan to compensate you, we will do that.”
The angry villagers interjected and one man stood up and lambasted Bhasikiti for coming with cops armed with AK 47 assault rifles to intimidate them because he knew that he was going “to tell lies”.
“You have always lied to us and this time you brought different lies. This is the same old trick that you are playing with us,” said a man to loud applause and cheers from fellow villagers.
“This time you thought you were a bit clever by coming with police details with guns to try and cow us, yet you destroyed our homes and livelihoods. We will die here in Chingwizi camp; we will not go to those one-hectare plots without compensation.”
One woman said they were annoyed by the government’s skewed priorities.
“It is surprising that you told us that you gave part of our money to civil servants who are already at work. What about us without jobs whose houses you demolished; whose property is in the open and sharing a single tent with several grown up children? What about us whose property and livestock you destroyed,” she said.
Masvingo provincial administrator Felix Chikovo and Mwenezi district administrator Stanley Chamisa tried to come to Bhasikiti’s rescue, but to no avail as the villagers booed them until they left the podium. Security details then whisked Bhasikiti away.
The women then broke into song and dance as Bhasikiti’s convoy left the camp at high speed.
Recently, the Zanu PF politburo said Chinamasa had been ordered to source compensation for the over 3 400 families displaced by the floods which pounded the Tokwe-Mukosi basin early this year.