The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) received distress calls from the Hwicho community of Gutu District in Masvingo Province. Gutu Rural District Council has been mooting expanding its territory to encompass the Hwicho, Mukadziwashe and Machaya communal lands as part of its urbanisation thrust which is likely to displace an estimated 400 households. Since March 2020, the council has been carrying surveying and pegging works without involving the affected communities.
The communities were apprehensive of the council’s decision which was being communicated to them through unofficial channels. As a result, the community was more than convinced that the council was up to no good. This prompted the community to seek assistance from ZimRights.
A visit to Gutu Rural District Council on the 7th of April 2021 by ZimRights and the community representatives proved fruitful. During the visit a letter requesting information from the council on their expansion matrix was dispatched. The letter was also copied to the DCC and the Minister of Local Government. The council had been secretive in its dealing with the Hwicho community. The move was in complete disregard of the rights of the Hwicho community as enshrined in the constitution of Zimbabwe. The council had flagrantly disregarded due process of consulting the Hwicho community or at least providing them with necessary information in as far as the surveying and pegging of their land was concerned. It was however pleasing that a prompt response was given by the council assuring the community that should the council decide to acquire their land for developmental purposes due processes will be followed.
Hwicho community is the city of the Gumbo people; it hosts the Gona and Hubvumwe mountains and a famous fountain at the foot of Hubvumwe mountains. These three features are a symbol of the Gumbo people’s cultural pride. Tempering with such a cultural pride without the consent of the Gumbo people is tantamount to cultural assassination.
In line with building sustainable and resilient communities and human rights community advocates , ZimRights continues to create platforms for the communities to come together and share ideas. The community mobilisation thrust has proved very effective for sustainability of any activity. Hwicho community was mobilised and organised into a community development association which association has the mandate to advocate for the rights of its members. The association will go beyond the community’s current challenges, having been empowered of their rights, they now possess the necessary tools to fight and defend their rights whenever they are infringed upon.
As a human rights organisation, we urge all the relevant authorities, Gutu Rural Distric Council in particular to respect human rights in the execution of their mandates. Due processes are the backbone of execution of mandates and such processes must be communicated to the affected persons in the language they best understand.