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Outcry over Grace’s land grab

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HUMAN rights defenders and opposition political parties have condemned First Lady Grace Mugabe’s land grab and continued expansion of her business empire in the Mazowe Valley at the expense of hundreds of resettled villagers.

SENIOR REPORTER

The rights campaigners yesterday described the recent eviction of over 200 families from Manzou Farm and threats to kick out 600 more at Celtic Farm in the Mazowe area to pave way for Grace as a gross human rights violation.

They said what made the evictions more worrisome was that they were being carried out in contravention of a standing High Court order issued last March.

Human Rights Commission chairperson Alec Muchadehama said it was disturbing that the First Lady, who under normal circumstances was regarded as mother of the nation, had chosen to violate the law with reckless abandon.

“First, the removal is unlawful, for the reason that the Constitution says there should be no eviction without a valid court order,” Muchadehama said.

“It’s unfortunate because here you are dealing with human beings. You can’t treat them like that. This is a serious violation of human rights.”

The affected villagers — whose grass-thatched houses were immediately set ablaze in a blitz led by armed police officers early this week — claimed that Grace wanted to expand her businesses and turn some of the land into a private wildlife sanctuary.

The First Family already has vast tracts of land in the area, some of it seized from Mazoe Citrus Estates where Grace is running a dairy project, Gushungo Dairies, an orphanage and elite primary school.

Dzimbabwe Chimbga of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said: “We are appalled by this violation of the Constitution, which is clearly against human rights and other various human rights norms and international treaties such as the African Charter on Human Rights.”

He said the State should have first held consultations with the affected people and made provision for alternative settlement as stated in Justice Susan Mavangira’s court order .

MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said the evictions were designed to feed into Grace’s “voracious land-grab escapade” carried out in violation of the law.

“Grace Mugabe has unlawfully and selfishly taken over the entire Mazowe Valley which is one of the most fertile farming areas in Zimbabwe.

“Poor peasants have been treated in a very inhumane and degrading manner by Grace Mugabe, who is corruptly abusing State power by disobeying a lawful order issued by the High Court,” Gutu said in a statement.

He blamed Zanu PF’s land seizure for causing the current economic crisis, adding that the ruling party’s “ruinous land policy” had relegated the country from a regional breadbasket to a basket case.
MDC Renewal Team spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the developments in Mazowe were morally wrong as villagers were being evicted without arrangements for alternative settlement or compensation having been made.

“Not only is this conduct morally reprehensible, it is also legally untenable. You can’t evict people without giving them alternative accommodation particularly at the height of the rainy season,” he said.

“Some of those people have already planted their crops and children are making preparations to go to school while there are also people who could be on antiretroviral treatment.”

A few months ago, Grace publicly declared her interest in acquiring additional land in the Mazowe area to build a hospital, secondary school and Robert Mugabe University.

Both Presidential spokesperson George Charamba and the State media have remained silent over the evictions which started on Wednesday.

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