Villagers reduced to slaves

WHY are rural people so badly treated by their chiefs and headmen? These people are expected to be unquestioning supporters of government yet they are treated like slaves by their traditional leaders.

Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Rural folks are made to work for nothing in the chiefs’ fields, the so-called Zunde raMambo.

One area where this form of slavery is prevalent is Chief Charumbira’s village. Villagers under this chief are not happy to be used as serfs. They are forced to work because of threats of banishment from the area by village heads and their henchmen.

This practice is grossly unfair to villagers because they are not paid for their labour. Neither are they fed during their toil.

They have very little time left for work in their own small plots. If they complain about food, they are told by the village head to collect food from amongst themselves.

As things stand right now, the villagers have very little food for their families and they cannot spare any for the Zunde raMambo. Villagers who refuse to work in the chief’s fields are forced to pay a penalty of $25 000, a rise from $10 000.

The village heads have devised a cunning way of collecting these penalties: they ask for the fine before a villager can buy maize whenever it is available.

Because of some unscrupulous heads, a 50kg bag of maize is going for up to $40 000. Add this amount to the fine and the total comes to a whopping $65 000. Where do the villagers get this kind of money?

Most villagers are forced to go hungry because they cannot afford these exorbitant charges.

What worries me is the greed and uncaring attitudes of the rural authorities. Who in their sane minds can ask villagers to work in their chiefs’ fields in these drought conditions?

Chiefs and headmen have become very greedy. They are paid very handsome salaries while chiefs are given new cars to boot. Sadly, the use of forced labour has spread to schools. One such school is Chirichoga Secondary where the head thought he had one hell of a good idea — a mammoth fish pond.

This fish pond requires the use of a mechanical excavator. The intended fish farming at the school is not necessary because villagers can get all their fish from nearby Lake Mutirikwi.

All the same, villagers are made to work on the pond using substandard tools. The digging alone has been going on for more than a year now and the end of the toil is not in sight.

Considering all this, can you understand the plight of your fellow villagers and appreciate what your parents and grandparents are going through?

There are many more activities around the country where forced labour is used. One question which begs an answer is: “where are the fines collected from villagers taken to and who benefits?”

Villagers have been so politicised by the government and belonging to any opposition parties is a death warrant or banishment from the village. Villagers long for their old ways of life when chiefs and headmen protected them against adversaries.

Chiefs and headmen were part of the village family and villagers worked on each other’s fields on a willing basis with field owners supplying refreshments and food.

If the government is for the people, let it relax its political hold on these poor souls who only want to live their normal traditional way of life.