First Lady Grace Mugabe has reportedly renewed her bid to evict villagers at Arnold Farm in Mazowe to expand her business empire following disclosures that the Lands ministry officials this week started parcelling the farm to pave way for the First Family.
By Xolisani Ncube
Desperate and scared villagers, who in 2012 were thrown out of the land during the farming season, only to be returned by the courts, said Lands ministry officials accompanied by some staff from Grace’s Gushungo Dairy visited the farm, demarcating it to pave way for their operations expansion.
In 2014, the courts stopped the evictions when Grace took over the adjacent Manzou Farm and turned it into a game sanctuary until the government provided alternative land to settle the villagers who took control of the farm at the height of the farm invasions in 2000.
Grace, who has acquired vast tracts of land in Mazowe, intends to build Robert Mugabe hospitals, university and secondary school to add to the dairy farm, children’s home and elite primary school.
A villager, Leonard Mukaro, from Arnold Farm, told NewsDay that Lands ministry officials informed the villagers to leave the area as the First Family had acquired the place for their business expansion.
“We first saw them on Monday, they were busy pegging on our stands. They came again on Tuesday. Today (yesterday) they came and we had to ask one of their officials who told us that the farm has been acquired by Alpha and Omega, so we are being told to leave the area anytime. We really don’t know where to go,” Mukaro said.
He said the officials said the First Lady had purchased about 1 200 hectares of the land.
“One Tuesday, four trucks came in. One was written Alpha and Omega, while the other three had white number plates. We asked them and they said they were from the Ministry of Lands and wanted us to leave the farm because the land now belongs to Alpha and Omega,” Mukaro added.
Mashonaland Central provincial minister Martin Dinha indicated he wanted to check details with Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora, while Presidential spokesperson George Charamba could not comment as he was travelling with the President in Ezulwini, Swaziland, for a Sadc engagement.
“I will give you a written response on WhatsApp. I don’t want to be misquoted,” Dinha said, but had not responded by the time of going to print last night.
Repeated efforts to get a comment failed.
Mombeshora did not respond to clarify on the matter or the fate of the villagers who have been resisting eviction since 2009.
However, a top Lands ministry official confirmed the farm had been taken over by the First Family and a Chinese firm to establish a blasting factory, but the villagers may be spared evictions.
“The villagers were given Nyandirwe Farm, close to Manzou, but they are resisting eviction. Other villagers have since left for Nyandirwe. The Chinese want to set up a factory, obviously they will be in partnership with the First Family,” a source said.
“I don’t think the factory will affect the villagers. It is true, some Ministry of Lands officials were there accompanied by an Alpha and Omega vehicle. The staff from Alpha and Omega only wanted to show the ministry officials the place the Chinese want.”
The Mugabes reportedly own several commercial farms in Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West provinces despite the country’s laws prohibiting multiple farm ownership.