[From Horizon, July 1994, p. 22.]
Conflicting priorities of two community development programmes in the game-rich Zambezi Valley have divided the villagers they are meant to benefit. Now hundreds of families are threatened with eviction and Eric Matingo went to find out why.
More than 500 families at the receiving end of two community development projects in remote Hurungwe communal lands are fighting a bitter war against politicians and conservationists to stave off their eviction.
For the village folk of Kabidza and Mayamba, living next to Mana Pools game park and the Chewore Safaria area, was a nightmare until 1991 when Campfire, a local community wildlife management project, brought them some reward for their suffering.
Under Campfire, villagers in the two districts received money raised by Hurungwe Rural District Council from hunting the wild animals that strayed into their fields and destroyed their crops.
But now a national programme sponsored by the European Union which encourages villagers to keep livestock free of foot-and-mouth disease threatens to undermine Campfire and divide the community.
At the heart of the problem is a veterinary fence to be installed as part of the European Union's project to separate wildlife from domestic livestock.
If it is installed along the game fences of Mana and Chewore, the Campfire programme will collapse. But if, as the council has decided, the 100 km fence is brought south by six kilometres, it will mean the 500 families who live in the wildlife corridor between the two fences will be evicted.
Now Chief Chundu and the villagers in Kabidza and Mayamba under his jurisdiction are accusing Campfire and the council of plotting to steal their land.
"The Campfire people are thieves and liars," says Chief Chundu, whose own homestead is skirted by the proposed veterinary fence.
Villagers admit they benefitted from Campfire when it started in Chundu in 1991. Households received cash benefits and a grinding mill was bought and installed at Chitindiva, a local township.
But Chief Chundu's comments were echoed by Kabidza's Vidco No. 3 chairman, Rice Magaya, who told Horizon: "Campfire's cash dividends, started our problems. We never asked for cash hand-outs, but that's when people started talking about putting in the fence. We were caught napping and they tricked us."
Many others have expressed similar opinions, especially as so many villagers have been threatened with eviction.
Says Rugare Kachamukware, ZANU (PF) chairman for Kubatana branch in Mayamba: "When we asked council whether Campfire wouldn't initiate our own eviction, they told us that only a few families would be affected and these would be easily accommodated. But today, hundreds of families are involved."
Hurungwe District Administrator, Bernard Chavhurura, has appealed for calm in what has now become a bitter land war: "The idea is not to force this," he says. "The fence is a new dimension which was not there when Campfire started."
Council chairman Mark Madiro agrees: "Now we have to go back to the people and ask if they still want Campfire, since it was benefiting them. It now seems to be a question of whether to kill or save Campfire."
The wildlife management group, which works closely with the Department of National Parks, denies it is to blame. Says Campfire's district co-ordinator, Cherry Bird, "There is no way Campfire wants to move people. I was horrified when I first heard about the fence because I knew it would spell disaster for us," she told Horizon. "If the veterinary department hadn't come with the cattle fence, nobody would be facing eviction. But the veterinary department wouldn't take the blame either. They claim they are just erecting fence to council instructions.
"It's not the department's fault," says veterinary officer Joshua Maruta. "We are not against Chundu and don't have the power to evict people. We are even happy to put the fence on the original game wire."
What appears to have made matters worse has been the behaviour of their local Member of Parliament, Tongai Nyikadzino, who claims there are many illegal settlers in the area.
Says Ruvirai Mugiya, a Mayamba Vidco No. 6 member. "Last year in winter, Nyikadzino was telling us to build nice brick houses and to keep cattle. But this year he changes his tune completely. Now he says we must get out by July 1 or he will send the soldiers in to shoot us.
"He called us all fools with water for brains because we are refusing Campfire," he adds.
Elizabeth Mbewe, also from Mayamba, agrees. "Now he's calling us refugees, but we are the people who voted him into power," she said bitterly.
Back in Harare, Nyikadzino angrily denied the allegations. "What I said was, "Chinonetsa vanhu ndechokuti vamwe vedu vakazvarirwa mutaundi zvokuti hunhu havana nokuti rukuvhute rwavo rwakarasirwa mumatoilets zvichisiyana netsika yedu yokuti rwaichererwa pasi nokudzirwa nendove mavanenge vazvarirwa." (Some people lack manners because they were born in towns where their umbilical cords were disposed of in toilets instead of being plastered with dung into the huts where they should have been born, as local tradition dictates), he says.
Nyikadzino, ZANU (PF) MP for Kariba, dissociates himself from Campfire saying it was a council project.
"Government has nothing to do with Campfire, so I don't know where I come in. I don't know about this new boundary and nor does government, he told Horizon in Parliament.
The root of the problem appears to be a lack of co-ordination between the two programmes, council and the villagers.
At a 1990 meeting with the people to discuss the implications of Campfire, villagers say it was agreed with council that the veterinary fence, when it came, would be put within 100 meters of the game park fences. Although this would have killed the Campfire programme, nobody could explain why that decision was made.
At that time, villagers say they asked to study the benefits of Campfire in other districts before accepting it. "But," says Jester Kamuchira, ZANU (PF)'s Kubatana Branch secretary, "the only time Campfire came back to us after that was when they brought money in 1991. They told us it was for the animals killed in our area. But there was never any real agreement to accept Campfire at the meeting in 1990 and it shouldn't be imposed on us now. We no longer want it."
The alarm was raised in February when the bulldozers moved in to clear the bush for the vet fence while villagers were waiting to discuss the problem with the council. To their surprise the path it cut was six kilometers in from the game boundaries and the villagers physically stopped the tractor from doing its work.
The villagers believe the council unilaterally changed its mind about the site of the fence when they realized the benefits it brought the people.
Then came the threats to evict everybody in the game corridor and allegations that many of them were squatters anyway and shouldn't be there in the first place.
District administrator Chahuruva denies the council is forcing Campfire on the people. "It's unbelievable that somebody could just move in and impose it," he says. However, he does believe Hurungwe suffers from illegal settlers: "There is a lot of squatting in the area. People are being illegally settled by chiefs and kraalheads along the fringes of the game fence. These are the people who are making a lot of noise," he told Horizon at his Karoi offices.
Most of the people in Mayamba and Kabidza however, told Horizon they had been living there since the mid-Eighties or before and don't know what the authorities mean by squatting.
Council chairman Madiro also doesn't agree that most of the people living in the proposed game corridor are squatters, saying that the council hasn't yet carried out a survey of the people.
"We haven't solved the problem yet and that's why we suspended putting up the fence until we have consulted the people again," he says.
Unfortunately, the council has landed itself in a position where the people it represents believe it is implementing a wildlife programme at their expense, or as a means of identifying and rooting out the squatters.
But the real problem is the European Union's national tsetse belt cattle development programme and its relationship to Campfire.
While one encourages villagers to keep cattle separate from disease-carrying wildlife, Campfire encourages the people to live among the wildlife with their livestock so that they can benefit from both. The risk however, is that their cattle could catch the deadly foot-and-mouth disease from buffalo and other wildlife which could then be spread to commercial herds with devastating effect. This would then threaten Zimbabwe's beef exports to Europe.
Although the people of Hurungwe find themselves in a Catch 22 situation today, it will, soon enough, become a more widespread dilemma for people living with Campfire in wildlife areas. As the veterinary fence moves east along the Zambezi Valley, the people of Guruve will soon be faced with the same problem.
First indications of how planners there will be dealing with it is that instead of fencing wildlife out, consideration is being given to fencing the people in.
But will rural folk in these areas accept the idea of returning to the once hated policy of living in protected villages?