Centre News Reporters.
A human rights advocate and headman in Chilonga, Livison Chikutu who dragged government to the Constitutional Court over evictions from their ancestral land to pave way for a dairy cow grass project appeared before a Chiredzi Magistrate facing charges of inciting villagers to commit public violence in protest against the government move.
Chikutu was granted a $5000 bail by Chiredzi Magistrate, Misheck Munyaradzi who remanded him to 9 June 2022.
The Human rights champion and traditional leader was arrested Tuesday, in a development that has been widely criticized by Human rights lawyers and defenders as open victimization.
Chikutu was represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, lawyer, Rita Charity Chakauya who said he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Chakauya said Chikutu is facing charges of violating a section of the Criminal Order Law and Reform Act when he addressed villagers at Chief Chilonga, born John Ben’s homestead on May 3 inciting them to pretest violently.
She added that her client dismissed the allegations saying he never addressed anyone since he was part of the invited traditional leaders by the Chief.
Human rights lawyers said the police and the authorities were victimizing Chikutu because he is resisting a government move to take their land and parcel it out to foreign businesses people.
Renowned Human rights Lawyer, Tendai Biti who represents Chikutu in the Concourt case which Justice Bharat Patel reserved judgement last week said this was a clear case of victimization.
‘’It’s very clear that a human rights leader and defender Mr. Chikutu is being victimized for trying to defend their lands rights as the minority Shangaani community. They are not happy with huis case at the courts hence they are coming after him,” said Biti.
His sentiments were also echoed by a local Human rights group, Masvingo Community for Research and Development (MACRAD).
“This is gross violation of human rights against a human rights defender who is fighting to save his tribesmen land. The reason for his persecution is simply exercising his right to approach the courts to stop the foreign company from taking away their land, this is disturbing and government should stop using the police to settle its scores with villagers and human rights defenders,” said Ephraim Mtombeni , MACRAD, Programmes Officer.
Over 2256 families face eviction to pave way for the Dendairy Company’s Lucerne grass project to feed dairy cows.
Dendairy was established in 2004 together with a European company Spear Capital which has 27% shares in the firm that started operation in Redcliff in the Midlands province.
.The Directors of the Dendairy include Andrew Bradnick, Neville Coetzee, Cherly Coetzee and Daryl Archibald.
Coetzee is a white farmer who has close links the President Emmerson Mnangagwa.