Humanitarian NGO Human Rights Watch is reporting that Zimbabwe ruler Robert Mugabe faked a “natural disaster,” forcing his citizens to vacate an area after a flood due to a state-media reported dam break. According to the report in the Christian Science Monitor, Mugabe turned the newly vacated citizens into “employees” of a forced labor camp in a sugarcane field.
In February, approximately 3,000 family residing in the town Tokwe-Mukoski in southeast Zimbabwe fled their homes. The village’s population bolted at first sight of a flood, as waters rose exponentially in a short period of time.
Mugabe weighed in, calling what happened due to the apparent flooding a “national disaster.” Zimbabwe’s state-controlled media reported on the flood, saying it was caused largely due to a structural collapse in a dam. This caused the freed water supply to flow rapidly and uncontrollably into Tokwe-Mukoski.
After hearing word of the citizens’ devastation, international humanitarian groups poured in from all corners of the globe, pledging assistance to the victims of the flood. Shortly thereafter, Zimbabwe military forces shuttled the 20,000 displaced individuals into a “transit” tent camp that was 80 miles from the flood zone. Zimbabwe officials referred to this newly created tent city as the Nuanetsi ranch.
The territory where the “refugee ranch” is located coincidentally falls within an area that has a plethora of sugarcane fields, used to feed a large ethanol facility on the land.
The day families arrived in the refugee area, Zimbabwe officials reportedly implored the 20,000 residents to work the fields. The residents were then told they would only receive their food aid, distributed by international humanitarian groups, when they completed their daily work responsibilities.
When digging deeper into the matter, human rights groups found the ranch just so happened to be co-owned by Mugabe’s Zanu political party. The other owner of the ranch is a Zimbabwean businessman, known by some as “Africa’s Napoleon.”
Human Rights Watch has alleged that not only were the refugee citizens exploited for cheap labor, but they were also forced from their land due to a man-made occurrence and not a natural disaster. Human Rights Watch claims they sent a team to the location of the dam to investigate the matter. They reportedly could not find any structural damage.
The Southern Africa regional director of Human Rights Watch concluded: “These 3,000 families have been displaced under questionable circumstances and dumped in a place where their only alternative is to be cheap labor for Zimbabwe’s ruling party.”