STATE security agents have reportedly deployed heavily in Chilonga, Chiredzi district amid fears that they want to flush out strangers and contain the flow of information on government activities in the area.
These include members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Zimbabwe Intelligence Corps, Military Intelligence Department, the Police Internal Security Intelligence and the Zimbabwe Prisons Intelligence Services.
Their presence reportedly intensified soon after the opposition MDC Alliance last week dispatched a fact-finding team to the area led by vice-president Tendai Biti, who managed to sneak out of Chilonga before the security agents arrived.
Biti’s team was investigating reports that government wanted to forcibly relocate over 12 000 villagers to pave way for a private lucerne production project linked to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ally, Darren Coetzee.
There is also speculation that the area has huge gold and diamond deposits, hence the heavy presence of State security agents.
It is alleged that Biti and his MDC Alliance team sent the security agents on a wild goose chase after they evaded them in Chilonga. The opposition team used a longer route through Rutenga, about 400km to get to Chiredzi unnoticed.
NewsDay visited the area at the weekend and it was evident that many villagers in Chilonga were suspicious of strangers in their locality.
They felt uncomfortable to give interviews to journalists. Masvingo Centre for Research, Advocacy and Development director Ephraim Mtombeni at the weekend confirmed that one of his members was approached by suspected State security agents last week.
“We are worried because members of the CIO approached Livison Chikutu who is one of Macrad members. Fortunately, he was not at home. One of them identified himself as Talent. If the project is for lucerne production only, then why are all these security personnel coming to Chilonga? he asked.
“As an organisation, we condemn this kind of intimidation. The matter is before the courts of law, so why all this harassment? They should let the law decide what should be done. Chikutu was the first applicant in a matter filed at Masvingo High Court. He is a son and representative of Headman Vhelemu,” Mtombeni said.
In July last year, Shangaan community leaders in Chiredzi East were summoned by the CIO and interrogated for allegedly inciting their subjects to resist government plans to relocate them to pave way for a multi-million-dollar lucerne production project.
Community Leaders summoned
The community leaders who were summoned include Dhlayani Chiandlala, John Petro, Itai Machuukele, Ganyani Chigombe, Graesham Marilele, Bernard Vhekenya, Funny Macholoti and John Gezani.
They were allegedly interrogated by CIO operative, Joseph Chiminya, who accused them of organising villagers to heckle government and Zanu-PF leaders spearheading the relocation exercise.
This was after the late Lands minister Perrance Shiri addressed them in the presence of Local Government minister July Moyo and Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Ezra Chadzamira.
State Security minister Owen Ncube denied that CIO operatives were intimidating Chilonga villagers.
“We don’t have anyone in Chilonga. You can ask (Home Affairs) minister Kazembe Kazembe. I think he has the right answer,” Ncube said. Kazembe could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone went unanswered.
However, it is alleged that a geological survey conducted by a leading South African diamond mining giant, De Beers in the 1950s as well as an aeromagnetic exploration conducted by local firm, Aero Survey Zimbabwe, in partnership with South African firm Xcalibur Airborne Geophysics, between 2019 and 2020, revealed vast deposits of kimberlite diamonds and gold in the Chilonga area, hence government’s interest in the area