Chiefs Roped In As 'Water Poachers' Dodge Fines

By Johannes Chin’ombe

Zaka, January 20, 2016 – RURAL district authorities have engaged local traditional leaders in efforts to compel some farmers practising illegal irrigation in the area to pay fines for the offence and to urge them to desist from the now rampant practice.

The farmers, who emerged late last year practicing illegal irrigation along Siya Dam and Murezi River in Zaka, insist they were trying to save their crops from the ravaging El Nino heat.

They have resisted paying fines imposed by the Zaka Rural District Council (RDC) claiming they were too poor to afford what they find to be very stiff penalties.

Meanwhile, they continue to draw the water against calls by the authority to stop the practice which has further incensed lawful farmers who have dutifully paid for the water.

Zaka RDC CEO, David Majaura confirmed seeking the services of traditional leaders.

“We have since engaged the chief (Nhema) to enforce payment of tickets by illegal irrigators,” he said.

“Follow ups for payment by lawful irrigation plot holders are also being made as they had also started boycotting payment in protest against council’s failure to control illegal irrigators.”

Latest RDC full council meeting minutes further lament continued delays in the approval of newly drafted conservation laws by central government, something the authority blames for the spread on the illicit practice.

“The newly drafted conservation laws were submitted to the Ministry (Local Government) but have not yet been approved,” the minutes read in part.

“This delay has seen us face challenges in dealing with illegal activities as might be noted that we issued illegal irrigators along Siya dam and Murezi River but they are not forthcoming to pay for their tickets.”

However, villagers who spoke to RadioVOP were adamant they will not stop drawing water illegally as this was a life and death situation.

Any stop in the practice, said one Tatenda Manyakara, more than six villages will be condemned to hunger in a province already battling massive starvation.

Added another farmer, Tendai Mugwagwa, “We have been issued with tickets ranging from US$10 to US$100 depending on how long you have been using the water from the burst pipes which feed irrigation schemes in the area.

“This is however to large an amount for us as rural people considering that the current economic situation and striking drought has left us with no money since we have not had any agricultural produce for the past two years.

“We simply cannot afford the fines on demand as much as we want to survive the harsh socio-economic conditions Zimbabwe is currently facing.”

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development deputy minister Davis Marapira was dismayed villagers were refusing to comply with council directives but urged the district council to find ways of assisting the desperate farmers save their produce.

“Not paying is bad; I am against that. They should pay their fines,” said Marapira.

 

“I believe this is an issue of people trying to find a way out of this drought, so why not help them. I believe I will have to go there soon and meet both council and farmers in question to resolve the ongoing issue.”