FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe has reportedly ordered over 600 more families at Celtic Farm in Mazowe to vacate the property this week as she seeks to further extend her business empire in the country’s greenbelt region.
This came hardly 24 hours after she forcibly evicted over 200 families at the nearby Spenenken and Arnold farms which form Manzou Estate where she has publicly declared her interest. Manzou Game Park is on the edges of Mazowe Dam.
The villagers claimed that their colleagues at Celtic Farms 1 to 4 had also been given notices to vacate to pave way for Grace.
They alleged that Grace had entered into a gold mining and processing partnership with the Chinese at Wagna Gold Mills, which they wrested from its previous owner only identified as Munyoro. Grace was said to be operating the mine through a proxy, a top police officer in the Police Protection Unit only identified as Mupambi.
Grace, who runs an orphanage, an affluent primary school and Alpha Omega Dairy project, has publicly announced plans to annex more land to set up a private wildlife sanctuary, hospital, secondary school and Robert Mugabe University.
According to the villagers, heavily-armed police officers yesterday besieged Spenenken and Arnold farms, and burnt down some makeshift homes that had remained intact after Wednesday’s raid.
“Six truckloads of police officers armed with guns, baton sticks and sniffer dogs were offloaded in Manzou today (yesterday morning). The trucks returned with another load and ordered villagers to pack their belongings before they destroyed the houses,” one of the villagers, Costa Chirimba, said.
Another villager, Gift Chikowore, added police pulled down some houses before property was removed after the villagers deserted their homes hoping that the police would spare them if household goods remained inside.
“But the police destroyed the houses and set on fire the grass thatch on houses they destroyed yesterday (Wednesday). They also blocked the roads to make sure that villagers do not run away,” Chikowore said.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba and principal director (State Residences) Dzepasi Innocent Tizora could not be reached for comment yesterday. Charamba was not picking up calls while Tizora’s number was not reachable.
Some villagers whose homes were destroyed on Wednesday slept in the open while yesterday they were busy looking for transport to carry their belongings from the farm. However, most of them said they did not know where to go as they left their previous homes 14 years ago at the height of the land reform programme and the land had since been allocated to other people.
The villagers had already engaged the services of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to stop police from evicting them as ordered by the High Court last year when over 700 villagers were evicted before harvesting their crops.
Last year, some of the affected villagers were initially dumped in Rushinga, Lazy and Blagdon farms in Concession before they took legal action and got a High Court reprieve to stay at the property until they had been allocated alternative pieces of land to settle.
“The lawyers have advised us that they have written to the Judicial Service Commission to get the police respect the High Court order and stop the eviction. They were promised a response by 8am (yesterday) but up to now, no response has been received,” George Musa, one of the villagers, said last night.
Meanwhile, opposition MDC Renewal Team yesterday condemned the evictions saying they exposed Grace’s lack of compassion for ordinary citizens.
Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume in a statement, said: “That these displacements are happening in the rainy season is a chilling reminder of the heartlessness of the government, itself a shameful indictment of the First Lady and President Mugabe as the evictees risk having their belongings destroyed by the rains.
“The illegal evictions are also taking place when the affected villagers have a thriving crop in the field, which they are being forced to abandon. Such callousness evokes memories of the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina when the same government destroyed people’s homes leaving over 700 000 people homeless in a cold winter.”