BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/RICHARD MUPONDE
VILLAGERS in Batoka, Hwange, Matabeleland North province have been given four months to vacate their communal lands to pave way for the establishment of a new township, a replica of Kariba town.
Situated on the south bank of the Zambezi River and built on the twin hills of Boterekwa overlooking Kariba Gorge and Lake Kariba (one of the world’s largest man-made lakes), the town was established in 1957 by the Federal Power Board to accommodate Kariba Dam construction staff as well as settlers.
Batoka Town will house workers and settlers at Batoka Hydro Power Plant, a joint venture between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The 2 400 megawatt Batoka Gorge plant was mooted two decades ago by the two countries, both of which are struggling with electricity shortages after drought affected hydropower output.
The project experienced delays over colonial era debts and community resistance.
The project was mooted in 1992 and construction is expected to start this year.
Through Statutory Instrument 188 of 2020, Local Government minister July Moyo said the villagers had up to December 31 to vacate the area, without giving them alternative land.
The SI, however, does not speak about any compensation for loss of land and improvements.
GE and Power China are in a consortium that was shortlisted to build the facility. The project involves construction of a dam, powerhouses, roads, transmission infrastructure and houses in both Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This comes at a time when scores of villagers in Hwange and Binga districts are facing eviction from their ancestral land to pave way for an influx of Chinese nationals eyeing fortunes from untapped mining fields.
In Hwange, a proposed Chinese mining project at Dinde dip tank caused so much anger that locals have even sought the help of Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda to block their evictions.
Mudenda hails from the same province.
“This notice may be cited as Communal Land (Setting Aside of Land) (Batoka Township) Notice 2020. The area of land specified in the schedule shall be set aside with effect from January 1, 2021 for the purposes of establishing a township,” the Local Government minister said in the notice.
“Any person using or occupying the land specified in the Schedule, otherwise by virtue of a right held in terms of the Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21:05) is ordered to depart permanently with his or her property, from the said land by the 31st of December 2020 unless he or she acquires rights of use or occupation to the said land in terms of section 9(1) of the Communal Lands Act (Chapter 20:04).”
Moyo was not reachable for comment yesterday.
However, the Hwange Residents Trust (HRT) reacted angrily to the planned evictions.
“We strongly condemn any evictions that will take place to the local people without compensation. The government should at all times ensure that the displaced have an alternative place where they will stay and also pay them adequate and timely compensation,” HRT co-ordinator Fidelis Chima said.