Some villagers in Mwenezi have complained the involvement of Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda in the distribution of new sugarcane plots in the Mwenezana sugar estates, saying such powers should be wielded by locals.
The scandal-ridden Chokuda (pictured) is apparently the head of an ad-hoc committee that influences who benefits from the government-driven empowerment programme, and who does not.
However, some locals told EnviroPress that it was not proper for a non-local from as far as Harare to decide who does, and who does not benefit from local resources.
“This borders on marginalization which has always characterized our relationship with authorities in Harare. This is an underdeveloped district with few opportunities and many resources that unfortunately benefit mostly few connected outsiders. For example, it’s an insult that Chokuda has powers to decide on distribution of local opportunities,” said one villager who spoke on condition that she would not be named.
Chokuda is currently in the eye of a storm following damaging revelations that he awarded a Parliament laptops tender to a briefcase company which quoted extortionate prices in order to swindle government.
He was forced into an embarassing climb-down and cancelled the tender after the letter he signed authorizing the deal was leaked onto social media, triggering an outburst of anger across all quarters.
Another one said non-locals always came on top because they had the means to take any opportunity that comes out in the district.
“People here are poor and they lack knowledge of processes that need to be followed for one to get real empowerment opportunities. It is unfair to expect people in such places as Maranda to compete with those from Harare,” he said.
The Mwenezana estates are the only irrigation project in the semi-arid Mwenezi district where climate change-induced disruptions are becoming more pronounced.
Mwenezi East Member of Parliament (MP) Master Makope acknowledged that well-connected outsiders tend to outbid Mwenezi residents in the exploitation of local resources.
“Zimbabwe is free but many people here feel that they are not free to exploit their own resources and enjoy opportunities that emerge locally. They are disempowered and do not have money to compete on an equal footing. There is need to hold their hands and walk them along until they can stand on their own. It must not be an ‘on your marks, get ready, go’ situation because we do not have similar capacities,” said Makope.
In an interview, Headman Shoko echoed the same sentiments of marginalization, saying there had to be a policy shift to avoid needless conflict in the exploitation of local resources.
“I was told that people getting plots in the estates are mainly outsiders especially those from Harare. This means that the estates are in Mwenezi but are essentially not ours and our children’s. Chokuda does not understand the situation here and he therefore can’t distribute fairly. That should change so that we can have a more cohesive society,” he said.
When contacted for comment, Chokuda refuted the allegations saying was not responsible for allocating land in the estates.
“I am not the one responsible for the distribution of land at Mwenezana Estates. You need to talk to officials in the Ministry of Lands. I am just a beneficiary who got allocated a piece of land and that is all. Those saying I am distributing land should get their facts right,” said Chokuda.
This project was made possible through a partnership with the Southern Africa Trust. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent that of the Trust or its associates. www.southernafricatrust.org