By Hardlife Samuwi
Zion Christian (ZCC) church leader Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi is under fire for evicting villagers in Gokwe Defe area in Midlands to pave way for a dam construction and his animal husbandry project, Zim Morning Post can reveal.
Hundreds of families have reportedly been displaced and left homeless in the past two months, insiders say.
Mutendi is allegedly pushing the families away and promising to resettle them in an inhabitable game park known as Chirisa.
Reached for comment Mutendi could neither confirm nor deny the allegations.
H referred this reporter to his spokesperson identified as Sanctions Mutendi.
Sanctions (Mutendi) could not categorically refute the allegations but invited the reporter to visit Gokwe Defe area for an ‘inspection-in-loco’.
“Well, If I respond to you now it will be my word against yours so the best thing is you must come to Gokwe and witness what is on the ground,” Mutendi said.
“We have our annual meeting this Friday and we can take you with us and you see the gardens in question and ask for the demarcations to see if anyone was displaced,yo must be on the ground,” he added.
Mutendi buttressed his response with a Biblical analogy wherein John the Baptist sent his disciples to go and ask Jesus if he was the real Jesus or they should expect another.
Zim Morning Post spoke to at least 22 affected families who all expressed their displeasure.
“When he came in here he promised us the land of milk and honey but we are suffering under his stewardship, he is chasing away because of his dam project,” said a victim who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Some section of the villagers said they now doubted Mutendi’s Christian convictions.
“I don’t think he is a true Bishop. I have never seen such a heartless church person like him. We grew up knowing that bishops, prophets and pastors are supposed to be the people’s sanctuary not to destroy families,” added another victim who refused to be identified.
“He is not a man of God. When he (Mutendi) came here in Defe he asked Chief Sai for space to build his church and he was given the space and promised to develop the area.”
The disgruntled villagers have formed WhatsApp group in which they are voicing their concerns and rallying each other to seek reprieve.
In his first year of relocating to the area in 2001, villagers say, Mutendi had a vision to change the breed of their livestock through the introduction of Boer goats, hybrid sheep as well as improve pigeon, fish, cattle and crop production.
The church also pledged to establish a mini-hydro power station to generate electricity for the villagers.
Villagers say Mutendi is acting in complete negation of his pledge.
“We are in pain, the church is fencing off our gardens, he went on to claim ownership of the gardens and barred entry to villagers. It all started in 2001 after Mutendi was appointed a village head and later on to the position of chief, we don’t know how because him he comes from Bikita and he was appointed by Chief Sai,” lamented another villager.
Mutendi is also accused of uprooting villagers’ crops which were at harvesting stage.
He is further accused of causing the arrest of three villagers namely Lovejoy Muhwati, Faro Pamudzi and Samson Mate over allegations of invading his garden and stealing the fence destroying his crops.
The trio was convicted and are languishing at Gokwe Central Prison, where they will serve six months behind bars.
Mutendi is said to using his close links with top officials within the ruling party Zanu PF including links with President Emmerson Mnangagwa to maintain an iron grip over the affairs of the area.
Last year he was endorsed by Zanu PF Midlands Provincial chairperson Larry Mavhima and lauded for developing Gokwe Defe area. Zim Morning Post