FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe yesterday reportedly intensified her bid to evict Arnold Farm villagers to pave way for the expansion of her business empire in Mazowe, with Zanu PF youth members allegedly destroying the villagers’ makeshift shelters to force them out of the property.
By Everson Mushava
The onslaught on the villagers is in spite of a court order granting them reprieve to stay on the farm until government secures alternative land for them.
Villagers, who cannot be named for security reasons, said a group of about eight youths stormed the farm, and razed down the makeshift shelters the villagers constructed in April after the police pulled down homesteads to pave way for the expansion of Grace’s business empire.
“They came around 7am and tore apart some plastics that we use as shelter, destroying the grass thatch and at some homesteads ordering the villagers off the farm,” one villager said.
“They had destroyed about eight homes, then we charged at them asking them why they were doing so when we have a court order giving us the right to be on the farm until government provides alternative land for us.”
The villagers said the youth stopped demolishing the structures and went back to the compound on the same farm, where they stay guarding the property.
This was, however, not without more incidents, as the youth allegedly destroyed a mobile phone belonging to one of the villagers, who they accused of filming their actions.
When NewsDay visited the farm, children were milling around what used to be their homes, with their parents pondering their next move.
“We are being exposed to this treatment every month since April when the police launched a large-scale bid to evict us and leave us homeless at the peak of the heavy rains that were experienced in the country,” another villager said.
“We have called our lawyer, who advised us to make a police report at Mazowe, so that he could use the case number to pursue the matter, but the police made us to sit outside for two hours at the police station waiting for the officer-in-charge.
“We eventually left without a case number.”
Police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba professed ignorance of yesterday’s developments.
“I am not aware of it,” she said.
Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha also said he was not aware of the incident, as he was at the late war veteran George Rutanhire’s funeral wake.
“I will come to you if I have the information. At the moment, I am not aware,” he said.
Dinha has been on record saying he would give Grace any land she wants for her business development.
In 2014, the courts stopped 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 land invasions in 2000.