THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has sensationally claimed it has no power to investigate human rights abuses by President Robert Mugabe as the fallout over Manzou Farm exploded.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
In accusing NewsDay of trying to “set up the Commission against the First Lady”, ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi yesterday said he was not aware that Mugabe’s wife Grace had any interests in the Manzou debacle that has attracted national and international condemnation.
“The First Lady has never been mentioned by any of the people we interviewed from authorities to ordinary people who brought the issue of violation of rights to our attention. We also do not know that the First Family is involved. If the First Family is involved as you indicate, then it means the President and we cannot investigate the President. He is immune. He has immunity,” Mugwadi said.
“The issue of how the conservancy was to be managed had not yet been concluded.”
Mugwadi, however, confirmed there had been human rights violations.
“There were human rights abuses and we had complaints from ordinary people, who accused the police of using force and brutality in the evictions. We have investigated and made recommendations on the issue and we want our communication to be clear given the period we are going into (elections),” the ZHRC boss said.
The ZHRC report said Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora refused to shed light on who the land had been offered to, despite indicating the conservancy had been renamed Makwiramiti Game Park at the behest of the investor.
“On being questioned whether the investor in question had any links to the First Family, the minister indicated that the offer was given to a company and not an individual and, therefore, he could not provide details regarding the persons behind the company,” the report said.
NewsDay drew Mugwadi’s attention to an April court case in which a couple had been arrested for refusing to vacate the farm.
The ownership is confirmed in the charge sheet against two villagers, Tapiwa Dhaisi and Sinikiwe Mazivei, who appeared at the Bindura Magistrates’ Court on April 20 on charges of refusing to vacate the land and attacking police officers who had come to enforce their eviction.
“On April 7, 2017, the accused persons unlawfully refused without lawful excuse to leave the land when called upon to do so by the lawful occupier at Arnold Farm, which is owned by the First Family,” the charge sheet read in part.
To this, the ZHRC chief retorted: “We are not aware of that. Maybe it’s your way of trying to cover yourself from the mess you have created. You are politicising and sensationalising this issue. It makes our work difficult.”
Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha has also previously confirmed that Grace had been “invited to manage the conservancy”.
And Mugwadi’s report buttressed this, indicating that Dinha, in his response on the involvement of the First Family, confirmed inviting the Mugabes.
“He (Dinha) further highlighted that he had engaged the First Family over the conservancy issue, as he wanted to take advantage of their social influence to identify investors for the conservancy . . . ,” the report said.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who represented Dhaisi and Mazivei, also confirmed the First Family’s involvement, arguing police had violated their clients’ rights.
“Dhaisi and Mazivei, who were left hospitalised, are currently nursing injuries, which were sustained after they were severely assaulted upon arrest for allegedly refusing to vacate Arnold Farm and pave way for occupation by the First Family,” ZLHR said.