HARARE – The burning of hundreds of Mapinga villagers’ huts on Monday has taken a new twist, with police yesterday accusing the Zvimba Rural District Council officials of leading the evictions.
Responding to yesterday’s Daily News story which highlighted the plight of hundreds of families who lost their livelihoods to the arson, the police claimed it was the local authority which evicted the settlers.
There was no comment from Zvimba Rural District Council yesterday.
But the villagers yesterday maintained that police officers in anti-riot gear set their houses on fire after accusing them of being illegal settlers.
While admitting the police presence when the houses were burnt down, police spokesman Paul Nyathi said in a press statement that the cops only provided security during the evictions as Zvimba Rural District Council conducted the operation.
Nyathi also denied claims by the villagers that the farm was owned by a senior cop claiming the land belonged to the Zvimba council, which he said was in the process of developing it into residential stands.
Despite the villagers maintaining that they were never told in advance to vacate the farm, Nyathi claimed that they had been given several notices by the local authority to leave.
“The Zimbabwe Republic police did not participate in the alleged setting on fire of the alleged thousand huts,” Nyathi said in the statement.
“In fact, it is the Zvimba Rural District Council officials who conducted the eviction whilst the six Zimbabwe Republic Police members only provided security.
“Therefore the truth of the matter is that the said land is not owned by a police officer but by Zvimba Rural District Council.”
Nyathi said the headman who gave the settlers the authority to occupy the land was currently under probe.
He, however, did not explain how villagers’ homes were torched while police watched.
Nevertheless, the hundreds of families who had settled on the farm at Mapinga along the railway line towards Mutorashanga in Zvimba South constituency at the behest of a local headman on the eve of the July 31 harmonised elections, insisted that police committed the heinous act.
The settlers told the Daily News crew that vicious and heavily armed policemen descended on their village and ordered them to take out their properties before they set their pole and dagga huts on fire.
The villagers, who said they had been resettled from as far as Mvurwi and Guruve, further alleged that the police even shot at one of their huts after one owner had resisted taking his property out.
“I came here from Mvurwi some four months ago and I was given this place to settle by the headman,” said 57-year-old widow Arterina Murungisa.
“I don’t know why they are now burning my home leaving me to sleep in the open with the children like this.”