FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe yesterday sent her entourage to kick out nearly 100 families from Arnold Farm in Mazowe despite protestations by the villagers that the First Lady was pushing them into destitution, NewsDay has learnt.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
At least 98 families reportedly face a bleak future with 114 small-scale farmers settled on the farm unsure of their future as President Robert Mugabe and his family push to expand their Alpha and Omega business empire.
Grace has been increasing her empire in the Mazowe area where she owns a state-of-art children’s home, primary and secondary schools and a family business running as Gushungo Holdings.
A few years ago, many farmers were pushed off the productive land to pave way for the First Lady at Manzou Farm where the President’s wife planned to keep wild animals.
Villagers said people in government vehicles were moving around the area yesterday pegging and making enquiries as to how many livestock they have.
According to the villagers, the officials, who claimed to have come from Bindura and Harare, went on to meet the local headman, one Kanakembizi, who in turn was asked to address villagers on their impending eviction.
“People who claimed to be fromfrom Harare and Bindura came to meet the local traditional leader to inform him of the plans to move us. They were saying the First Lady now wants her land. We are actually at the meeting with the headman and he is telling people to be prepared to leave any time,” the villagers’ representative, Leonard Mukore, said.
“We are not saying we don’t want to leave, but our issue is that we want an alternative place to go. Remember, we have families and moving at this stage without alternative land is going to affect us a lot. Even our school-going children will be negatively affected.”
But in response to a NewsDay exposé of the impending forced evictions at the weekend, Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha described the affected villagers as “illegal settlers”.
“Anyone staying at Arnold Farm or anywhere in Manzou must know that they are doing so illegally and must move,” Dinha said.
Dinha said Manzou was earmarked for the restoration of a game park to be known as Nehanda National Monument “and developments of national importance”.
“If we are getting foreign direct investment in the form of such an industry from a Chinese investor, tell me what is your problem with such a positive and welcome development?” he queried.
Other villagers, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, said they were being thrown into destitution by the First Lady’s desire for control.
“They (officials) were here again yesterday (Sunday) where they told our headman to address us on the impending eviction. They asked the headman about the number of households and the livestock in total. Approximately, we have a combined total of 600 cattle and over 1 000 goats,” the villager said.
“They seem to be in a hurry to remove us or to have us leave as soon as possible. The painful thing is that we have crops in the fields and children who are attending school. Personally, I have two children who are sitting for Ordinary Level this year and I had already paid for their examination fees. This forced relocation will affect their grades.”
Added another villager: “We came here at the height of land invasions and removed a white farmer called Kennedy. We never removed a fellow black person on the farm and I wonder why we are being treated like this, all because someone wants to increase her empire. Imagine farming is our source of livelihood and we are likely going to lose the crops as well. This is tragic.”
By yesterday, veterinary officers and officials from the Environmental Management Agency were reportedly making different enquiries.