REPORTS that the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has descended hard on First Lady Grace Mugabe to stop harassing or evicting hundreds of residents of Manzou Farm, otherwise known as Arnold Farm, to expand her family’s business empire is laudable and consistent with the mandates of all human rights organisations the world over.
While the ZHRC report mentions the First Family seemingly as an afterthought in questions to authorities during investigations, the fact that the probe centred on the disputed property eyed by Grace clearly shows that the body could do with more independence.
Official documentation, including charges against villagers arrested for refusing to vacate the farm, show Grace as the owner.
Whether the farm has been legally registered into the First Family’s list of properties or it is still an intention using State apparatus to achieve personal goals is not acceptable. Whatever is happening at Manzou is a matter of human rights and must be dealt with.
It is our contention that the key function of this government should be to define and protect property rights. It is regrettable that this Zanu PF regime has failed in this regard.
We are aware that the ZHRC is constrained, given it is a commission under the Justice ministry, in which case they “may not” have the independence required for such an instrument of justice to function in a democracy.
This is perhaps why there is no mention of Grace in the report. Worse still, the ZHRC cannot investigate the President if he has interests anywhere — that’s how badly they are constrained.
But we believe the Elasto Mugwadi-led ZHRC had no room to manoeuvre given the over 200 villagers at Manzou Farm had taken their case to the High Court citing interference by Grace. Whether they liked it or not, they still had to investigate, but knowing of Grace’s involvement, the report was sanitised.
Grace is known to have expressed interest in Manzou Farm with reports that she has also grabbed the State’s Manzou Wildlife Sanctuary and Mazowe Dam respectively.
Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha gave a month-long lecture the first time NewsDay broke the story about Grace mooting plans to forcibly evict hundreds of occupants from the farm for herself.
At the time, Dinha claimed that Grace had roped in Chinese investors to develop the area in an undertaking that could create thousands of scarce jobs. Dinha opined that the government would accede to Grace’s demands, as President Robert Mugabe’s wife. While Dinha is entitled to his opinion, we do not think Grace should abuse people using borrowed powers of the President.
Zimbabweans are worried that if not stopped, Grace could continue her rampage to the detriment of society. The First Lady has regrettably turned into a sad story for Zimbabwe.
The ZHRC report should, therefore, serve as a warning to stop Grace from her self-destructive path. Mugabe should learn to co-exist with the poor who have voted for him in the past. If this matter is not properly handled, it has the potential for a snowball effect with devastating effects come elections.
The Mugabe family’s human rights record of abusing Zimbabweans is a matter of public record, but something must give and it will.