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Grace escalates Manzou villagers’ fight

GOVERNMENT has cleared the remaining villagers at Manzou Farm to make way for First Lady Grace Mugabe’s business expansion and the reported establishment of a national monument, an official has confirmed.

GOVERNMENT has cleared the remaining villagers at Manzou Farm to make way for First Lady Grace Mugabe’s business expansion and the reported establishment of a national monument, an official has confirmed.


First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe
First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe

Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha, in an unrestrained rant yesterday, accused the media of launching an ill-informed campaign for the protection of human rights.

“Get it from me, those people will move. In fact, they have moved and the Nehanda National Monument and Manzou Game Park will be restored come hell, come thunder. Rights exist with obligations. The Constitution is very clear.

Right-minded citizens of our country know this. There is nothing called absolute rights and we have an environment to preserve and a culture and heritage to observe,” Dinha said.

Reports indicated that President Robert Mugabe’s wife wants Manzou Farm to expand her private business. The First Family, according to media reports, already owns over 12 other farms on some of the country’s richest soils.

Some 200 families were left stranded after police forced them off the farm in defiance of a court injunction, in a move that also affected schoolchildren set to write their examinations this year.

Police were also accused of brutalising a family, leaving a man with a gouged eye, forcing the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to launch an investigation that has, however, been met with resistance amid an alleged cover-up plot.

Earlier, Dinha claimed there was a gag order on the issue.

“We have instructions not to talk about that issue partly because of how it has been reported,” Dinha said.

Quizzed on who had issued the gag order, Dinha said: “From me as head of the province. The way you portray the First Lady and First Family is very negative and in bad light. Exaggerated!”

But, ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi denied there were instructions against commenting on the emotive issue.

Mugwadi also claimed there seemed to have been a media campaign to set up the commission against First Lady Grace.

“We have not received any instructions. If there is any land-grabbing, it must be investigated. But, I must say our job has not been made easy by the way you have reported the issue. There are underlying issues that you need to investigate and understand.

“If something good has been done, it must also be reported. You need to talk to the Provincial (Affairs) minister (Dinha), he must give you all the details,” Mugwadi said.

Asked if the envisaged monument was not at best managed by the National Museums and Monuments department instead of the First Family, Dinha claimed he had invited Grace.

“It’s us the province as State actors who requested the First Family to find investors and to invest as well on a BOT (built-operate-transfer) basis. This side of the story you (sic) don’t want it. Am shocked you (sic) don’t know it’s a gazetted and proclaimed Nehanda National Museum and Monument (NMM) Heritage site.

“Do your research, my brother, on how parks areas are run and managed. Game preservation and heritage sites management is expensive. Investors with interests in tourism must be attracted to chip-(in). Kusaziva kufa sure (Lack of knowledge is dangerous). Do you even (know) the Mazowe Hwata Trust and its role in establishment of the NMM at Mazowe?” Dinha added.

“Thus, we feel you people are obsessed with preconceived lies. Hamudi chokwadi (You hate the truth).That project is a social investment and for the national good and we will not stop it because some shallow-minded political activist who don’t see beyond their noses are attacking us, no and no.”

While previously Mugwadi has raised the red flag over the possibility of rights violations at Manzou, Dinha said it was “a storm in a teacup”.

“There are no human rights abuses at Manzou and you (sic) want to make a mountain out of an anthill. You do not report things as they are. You have a political agenda to vilify and demonise the First Lady and First Family,” he said.

“Those who want resettlement have been resettled; those who want to be used and engage in cheap politics, let them do so. Court orders have been complied with and people have a right to complain to whoever they want to, but it will not stop public authorities and public officials like me from doing our work. We know some of the groups survive on donor funding and they must be seen to be fighting the powers-that-be!”

In March, the High Court ordered police to stop the violent eviction, but human rights groups claim this was ignored.

The lawyer representing the Manzou villagers, Moses Donsa-Nkomo, was not available for comment yesterday.