Local Authority

Bikita RDC, traditional leaders clash over clinic site

A conflict is brewing between traditional leaders and Bikita Rural District Council in Ward 4 over a site to construct a health care centre.

The dispute centers on a piece of land commonly known as “kumaPaddock” in Ngwarai Village under Chief Mazungunye. Bikita RDC earmarked the piece of land to build a clinic, while the Chief and Village heads want to preserve the land for communal occupation. The disagreement stems from unclear ownership rights to the land in question.

The village heads of Ngwarai, Jerifanos, and his brother Takanyadzwa Matsvange Ngwarai are spearheading the opposition to the establishment of the clinic. The opposition is mainly directed at the Zanu PF ward 4, councillor Samuel Mazarire who is leading the development project. They argue that the land has been used by the community for generations and should not be used for the construction of a clinic.

The land is located about 500 meters South East of Matsvange Business Center and Bengura Primary School.

When contacted for a comment, Bikita RDC CEO Arnold Tapiwa Mutuke told The Midweek Watch that he was not aware of the dispute but confirmed that a proposed site for a clinic exists in Ngwarai village.

“I haven’t yet been informed of this dispute. While the traditional leaders have not yet reached out to us, I can confirm that there is a proposed site for a clinic in that village,” said Mutuke.

Mutuke added that he would try to find out if there is any opposition to the proposed site of the clinic.

There is a disagreement over boundaries, with the village heads accusing the council of encroaching on communal land, while Cllr Mazungunye is maintaining that the land belongs to the local authority.

 Mazarire told The Midweek Watch that the land had initially been earmarked for a Vocational Training Center, but after consultations a decision was made to change its use to a clinic.

“This land was reserved for a Vocational Training Center by Colonel Makova. It is a council paddock land” says Mazarire.

However, Village Head Jerifanos is strongly opposed to the development, asserting his own claim to the land which he wishes to preserve for “his people” to build their homes. He maintains that the land has been historically utilized by the community, and that its seizure for a clinic would be a violation of their rights.

Sources allege that Village Head Jerifanos and his brothers are pushing for the reversal of the clinic’s pegging because they had previously illegally sold stands of residential land from the same area.

 Some of these stands have already been developed, further complicating the situation for the Ngwarai brothers as the proposed clinic would likely result in costly evictions for those who have already built homes on the land.

In support of Village Head Jerifanos, who had reported the matter to him, Chief Mazungunye born Lazarus Maipisi has summoned Cllr Mazarire to his court to discuss the issue. The Mid-Week has obtained a written letter dated 20/04/24 with Chief Mazungunye’s stamp, where he warns Mazarire against proceeding with the project.

The RDC and Mazarire are accused of sidelining  both the Chief and Village Head Jerifanos from the procedures of the development.

The letter states, “Shamwari ndanzwa kuti wakapega clinic munzvimbo yangwarai asipo uye asingadi nenzvimbo yake uye ini Mambo muridzi wenzvimbo ndisipo ndisingazivi,” reads part of the letter.

Mazarire said he informed one of the Ngwarai brothers, Takanyadzwa, about the proposed clinic, contrary to the Chief’s assertions. Mazarire explained that Takanyadzwa accompanied the planning team, which included the council planner, engineer, and members of the community clinic development committee, during the pegging of the site.

 “Takanyadzwa was with the team that pegged the clinic. He was actually leading the team. I don’t know why they are now denying this,” he said.

“After obtaining the approval of Sabhuku Takanyadzwa Ngwarai, the pegging of the site was conducted with his involvement, and the meeting minutes were recorded. It is puzzling to me that I am now being summoned to the Chief’s court,” said Mazarire.

He continued, “The actions of the Chief and the village heads seem to contradict the initial agreement that we had reached with Sabhuku Takanyadzwa Ngwarai.”

 “Haa shamwari siyana nevhu rangu, uye udza DA wako kuti kwanzi mirakupa nzvimbo yangu.”

Chief Mazarire further summons Mazarire to his court, warning that failure to comply would result in him taking the matter to ZANU PF.

“Huya pano mangwana, kana usina kuuya ndoinda ku Zanu pf.”

Village Head Jerifanos rejected accusations of reporting Mazarire or the council to the Chief, stating, “We only approached the Chief for guidance on the boundary dispute between our communal land and the council’s. No one will be arrested.”

He continued, “Chief Mazungunye instructed Mazarire and the council to come before him so that I could show them the location where the clinic was supposed to be built.”

Jerifanos maintained that the primary objective of their engagement with the Chief was to clarify the boundary issue, and not to initiate any legal action.

Jerifanos also expressed concern over the size of the proposed clinic site, saying, “What kind of a clinic or hospital could require such a large area of land?” He questioned the need for such a vast amount of space, suggesting that the proposed clinic could potentially be smaller than the designated area, or the council might have ulterior motives for acquiring the land. His skepticism about the necessity of the large site further fueled his opposition to the construction of the clinic.

Sources told The Midweek Watch that the land had been previously used as council paddock land, suggesting that it might be considered state land.

This contradicts the claims of the traditional leaders who assert that the land has been utilized by the community for generations and should not be appropriated for the clinic.

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