JOHANNESBURG - A paramount chief in Zimbabwe has lashed out at the government over its plans to evict a white farmer from an area he presides over and has also called on the west to tighten sanctions to compel President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa to reverse the decision.
Ndebele Paramount Chief Nhlanhla Felix Ndiweni said in a statement this week that, "the attempted eviction of the Parsons/Davies family from Ntabazinduna mountain has touched our sense of justice in a most profound manner ... this assault upon the Parsons/Davies family is unjust irrespective of what anyone may say".
"An attack on this family is an attack upon the whole of the Ntabazinduna family. An attack upon the Ntabazinduna family is an attack upon the whole Ndebele Nation family."
Recent reports indicate that the couple was served with an eviction notice on April 9 by a former employee, Floyd Ambrose, despite his signing a formal memorandum of understanding with the Davies family in 2014 that allowed them to stay on the land. Ambrose has the backing of the Zimbabwe ruling ZANU PF party.
However, Chief Ndiweni warned: "Should it be effected upon the Parsons/Davies family then our current administration will pay a very heavy price indeed, from within the country, in the region and from the international world."
He said traditional leaders will be at the forefront of the campaign to fight the evictions.
"The College of Amakhosi is asking all of those who have that sense of justice within them, from where ever they are in the country and the world, to join hands with us in our campaign," said Ndiweni, adding that the chiefs reject and deplore what Mnangagwa’s administration was doing at the Ntabazinduna Mountain.
"In order to change the mind-set of this administration, strong and robust action must be taken against it. The Amakhosi (chiefs) local people, Parsons/Davies, white commercial farmers, black commercial farmers, workers on all commercial farms and Ndebele nation, are of one mind on this matter."
"Hence the chiefs are calling for the US Government and European Union to immediately increase and tighten all the sanctions and travel restricts they have applied to date against this administration," said Ndiweni.
He said it was evident that the Zimbabwe government was only paying lip service to the reforms identified by the international community.
At least 4,000 white commercial farmers have been evicted since land invasions began in Zimbabwe in 2000. Some evicted farmers ended up in countries such as Zambia and Nigeria, which strengthened the backbone of those countries' agrarian sectors.
"Indeed by the evidence of what is happening on Ntabazinduna mountain, this administration is still engaged in evicting farmers in the most inhumane way," said the paramount chief.
"This eviction does not have any high moral ethos or political ideology attached to it at all, but has everything to do with corruption and basic thuggery. This eviction does not recognise the local people of Ntabazinduna or indeed the whole of Matabeleland."
He said the eviction has impoverished local people while benefiting a corrupt few individuals.
"This eviction is making families destitute. As a result families are not able to pay for medical treatment or medication because of this eviction. The children of families are now being turned away from local schools because the parents are unable to pay the school fees, because of this eviction," said Ndiweni.
"The human suffering caused by this eviction nullifies any possible advantages one may seek to obtain by this eviction.
"We will only relent when our objective has been achieved i.e. the Parson / Davis family back on the Mountain, with the traditional leaders in full charge and control of that Sacred Mountain."
In accordance with the 2014 agreement, the Davies family moved back into their safari lodge, which Ambrose has been accused of ruining through negligence and neglect. He had moved into the Davies’s remaining homestead the same year.
The Davies couple lodged an urgent appeal on Friday April 12, which was set down by the court for April 17, but they have now been informed that it will only be heard on 29 April.
The Parsons/Davies family was the largest pig producer in the country, with over 12,000 pigs, a large cattle herd, a commercial crocodile farm and a well-established and very successful photographic safari operation.
With the permission of Chief Nhlanhla Ndiweni’s father, the late Paramount Chief Khayisa Ndiweni, they built Chief’s Lodge on the top of Ntabazinduna Hill, a famous historical site that is important in the Ndebele culture.
Chief Ndiweni named the Davies family custodians of Ntabazinduna Hill and the family promised to preserve it.
The family employed more than 350 staff who, together with their families, were wholly reliant on income generated from the farming and photographic safari operations.
The employees and their families – more than 2,000 people in total - were all housed on the farm. The Parsons/Davies family built a school for the employees’ children, which is still supported by the Davies family.