LAND ROW SPARKS VIOLENCE :120 VILLAGERS ARRESTED | One hundred and twenty villagers have been arrested for public violence and malicious damage to property in Tsholotsho in a case arising from a land dispute.
A total of 76 women and 44 men from Ward 13 in Godzo area, under chief Magama, were picked up and taken to Tsholotsho Police Station on Wednesday after they destroyed structures that a local businessman, Mr Owen Sibanda, was developing on his commercial stand in their area.
The damaged property is estimated at $30 000. Villagers claim Mr Sibanda was allocated the piece of land in Makhwili village, Godzo area where he is building some structures, unprocedurally, by the Tsholotsho Rural District Council.
The villagers, who accuse Mr Sibanda of taking over grazing land meant for their livestock, ran amok on Wednesday after the businessman won a case to remain on the land at the Tsholotsho Magistrate’s Court.
Chief Magama confirmed the arrest of the villagers and added that Mr Sibanda should vacate the area with immediate effect as per the villagers’ wishes.
He, however, condemned the villagers’ behaviour saying they should not have resorted to violence after Mr Sibanda won the matter in court.
Chief Magama said the land wrangle started in April when Mr Sibanda started constructing some business structures in the area.In June, more than 300 armed villagers marched to a village head’s homestead in Tsholotsho to protest over the issue.
“I know people are angry and do not want this man there but I condemn the way they have handled the matter. As I speak more than 100 people are detained at the police station and that is unnecessary.
“I am on my way to join them now as they may be going to court later during the day. I just wish Mr Sibanda had listened to the villagers concerns when they first expressed their displeasure before he started constructing any structures on the piece of land. Now this is a big loss for him,” Chief Magama said.
The Chronicle could not immediately establish if the villagers had been taken to court.
The Chief said it was impossible for one to live peacefully in a community where one is not wanted.
Tsholotsho Rural District Council Chief Executive Officer, Mr Themba Moyo, said council should not be blamed for the incident as they only endorsed a request by the local headman to allocate the land to Mr Sibanda.
“Communal land is allocated by traditional leaders who include the village head and headman. Once those leaders approve, we then allocate,” he said.