GOVERNMENT has started the process of moving villagers from the 1 130-hectare Selby Farm in Mount Hampden, Mashonaland West province, to pave way for the construction of a new parliament building by the Chinese as part of the deals signed between Zimbabwe and China last week.
Mount Hampden is in President Robert Mugabe’s home region of Mashonaland West and is earmarked as the country’s future capital.
More than 100 families, who have been staying at the farm along Old Mazowe road since 2000 when the country’s chaotic land reform programme began, were on Wednesday last week given six months’ notice to vacate the farm.
Most of the villagers occupying the farm are war veterans and ruling Zanu PF party supporters.
As part of preparations to evict the farmers the Zanu PF Mashonaland Central leadership, through secretary for land Alfred Mufunga, informed them that the new parliament would be constructed on the farm so they had to move.
Mugabe and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping last week presided over the signing of 12 investment agreements covering a wide range of areas of the country’s struggling economy including energy, health, local government, finance, aviation and the environment, among others.
Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere signed the US$145 million deal for the construction of a new parliament with the Chinese officials.
The project, some 40km west of Harare along Old Mazowe Road, will be built around the Mt Hampden Kopje site and is expected to be a replica of the wealthy Sandton area of Johannesburg, South Africa.
The new parliament building has been on the cards for many years, and if constructed it would ease space constraints currently faced by the bicameral parliament following the expansion of the National Assembly from 210 to 270 members in .
According to the then Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo in 2012, the new parliament complex would be constructed in an integrated way with modern day structures in its proximity.
There would be houses for the Speaker of the National Assembly, deputy of the house of assembly, the senate president and the vice-president. The area will also have recreational areas, banking malls, an affluent residential area, state-of-the-art shopping centres, hotels and government buildings.
War veterans who spoke to Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday expressed their displeasure at the prospect of being evicted.
Weston Mukwaya said the war veterans were particularly disappointed because they invaded the farm in 2000 and had been allowed to stay put for such a long time.
“The Mashonaland Central provincial lands committee secretary (Mufunga) gave us a notice of six months only to vacate the farm at which we have stayed for 15 years because parliament is going to be built near the Zifa village. He said for now we could still plant our crops but after six months we should leave because after that we could be moved anytime,” said Mukwaya who says his nom de guerre is “Kid Hondo”.
Another war veteran who identified himself only as Kapfunde said he was devastated at the prospect of leaving Selby farm.
Kapfunde said: “Before Independence I was at war, now even after independence I am still at war. I have no permanent place to stay. They (government) are the ones who gave us the green light to settle here and now they are taking land away from us again. Didn’t they know that this area was earmarked for the parliament building?”
Contacted for comment Mufunga, who is also Muzarabani North legislator, confirmed notifying the war veterans of the imminent eviction.
“I spoke to the war veterans last week. The meeting was about so many things including the need to stop violence and settle a land dispute between the war veterans and people who had settled themselves on the farm,” he said.
“We then also showed them recent certificates that showed that Mazowe Rural District Council had taken over the farm in preparation for the construction of the parliament building and everything else that will come with it. It’s unfortunate but they will have to relocate and my understanding is that there are about 74 families at the farm.”