THE Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ) is locked in a land row with villagers in the Thekwane communal lands in Plumtree, who accuse the church of practising “black apartheid” by fencing off land that belongs to them.
However, the church insists that it is not taking any land belonging to villagers, but was fighting illegally resettled people on its farm.
Thekwane community spokesperson and former Bulilima Mangwe district chief executive officer and interim Alliance for National Salvation (ANSA) spokesperson, Nketha Mangoye-Dlamini, told Southern Eye that they felt disrespected by the church over their land.
Mangoye-Dlamini said the community had raised its displeasure with MCZ leadership at a meeting held early this month, adding the church’s claim to right to the land was based on colonial invasion by the British South Africa Company in 1901.
“The trust deed indicates that the church was allocated preaching rights, not rights over villagers. Villagers in Thekwane do not consider themselves as tenants as suggested by MCZ and, therefore, MCZ’s authority is not recognised. We feel disrespected and degraded to be called to answer questions from a body (MCZ survey team) we do not recognise in as far as land ownership and control is concerned.”
Mangoye-Dlamini added that villagers were incensed by a threatening letter written “to village heads by MCZ signed by Amos Ndhlumbi describing them as criminals”.
“As a result of this disrespect, we refuse to participate in the suggested (MCZ) survey. The MCZ is practising black apartheid and utilising practices that are tribalistic in spirit and deed. People from the village are being overlooked when it comes to employment (at the mission). Preference is given to people from other regions,” he said.
The villagers have also demanded that the church pulls down a fence it is erecting.
Bulawayo diocese head, Wilfred Diningu denied the allegations levelled against the church.
“The land under dispute is a church farm. The issue is that they (village heads) are settling people illegally on church land, even without the approval of the district administrator. The government has said it clearly that church land will not be taken for resettlement,” he said, adding the villagers are being misdirected.