Did This Guy Flood Villages to Get Slave Labor?
Displaced villagers in Zimbabwe forced to work on ranch owned by Mugabe's party
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2014 3:46 AM CDT
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is seen in Zvimba, Zimbabwe.    (AP Photo /Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)
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(Newser) – Robert Mugabe isn't known for his human rights record, but is the Zimbabwean leader villainous enough to flood whole villages to create a source of cheap labor? Some 20,000 villagers were displaced from a region in southern Zimbabwe earlier this year and resettled on a ranch that just happened to be jointly owned by Mugabe's party and a businessman ally, the Christian Science Monitor reports. A Human Rights Watch investigation finds that the villagers are being forced to grow sugar cane for an ethanol project—and the flood was deliberately created to get them off their land without paying compensation.

The flood was declared a "national disaster" and media reports claimed a dam wall collapse had caused the floods, but that "is false information," says a senior employee at the Italian firm that helped build the dam. "The dam wall did not collapse and was never in danger of collapsing. With sluice gates and spillways open, it would have taken at least five years for the dam to fill up to capacity, but in this case they were deliberately closed." The international community donated food aid after the flood, but villagers have been told food aid distribution depends on their work, and provincial officials have been accused of selling off some of the aid for profit.