The Zimbabwe government has continued a campaign against "illegal" settlers on former commercial farms with the eviction of about 200 families from a property 10 km north of Bulawayo, the country's second city.
Similar evictions have taken place at several farms on the outskirts of the capital, Harare, in the past few weeks, with soldiers and police tearing down the homes of people who answered the government's call in 2000 to occupy commercial farms.
Scores of villagers, evicted from Mfazimithi farm outside Bulawayo on Thursday and Friday last week, are now camped by the roadside along the Bulawayo-Nkayi highway, where they have put up makeshift plastic shacks.
"Most people blame the government for taking us for a ride during farm invasions as we were encouraged to stay put, but I think we are also to blame for failing to read between the lines and see our future was uncertain when the government had achieved whatever it wanted to achieve. It was purely political, and now it has dawned on everyone as we are being driven out of the farms. This is sad, sad indeed," said Methuseli Sibanda, one of the evictees, as he gathered his belongings on Sunday.
The government has defended its actions, saying it had warned the settlers against erecting permanent structures on the farms they had occupied under the land redistribution programme. It pointed out that a rationalisation exercise was needed, as many did not have the skills to exploit the potential of the commercial farms they had taken over.
Lands minister Joseph Made told IRIN that, despite the outcry by the evicted families and civil society groups, the evictions would continue: "We are certainly not going back. It's an ongoing process."
But an official of the parastatal Agricultural Rural Development Authority, who spoke to IRIN on condition he was not named, warned that a serious health hazard was looming at Mfazimithi, as the settlers camped by the roadside had no running water or sanitation facilities.
"It's a sad and unfortunate situation: children have since stopped going to school, and all these people have nowhere to go - they are virtually stranded and the authorities have not given them any alternative place to live. Many people have lost their domestic animals as they were not allowed to round them up, and most of them are running out of food."
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions