THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has descended hard on First Lady Grace Mugabe and ordered her to stop her violent eviction of villagers and the hostile takeover of Arnold Farm in Mazowe for the expansion of her business empire.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
In a stinging report released last Friday, ZHRC described the ongoing evictions, at Grace’s behest, as unconstitutional and blatant abuse of human rights.
In its report, the Elasto Mugwadi-chaired ZHRC described the ongoing violent evictions at Manzou as inhuman after scores of villagers were left injured and hundreds of children cut off from school.
Mugwadi confirmed the report had been completed.
“We have a report; you can get in touch with the secretariat. I am not at the office,” he said. “It is a comprehensive report and includes those issues (Manzou and Arnold farm evictions).”
Grace reportedly wants to expand her business empire, which already includes the sprawling Gushungo Dairies, Mazowe Children’s Home and a plan for a billion-dollar State-funded Robert Gabriel Mugabe University amid reports that she has grabbed Mazowe Dam as well.
Excerpts of the report gleaned by NewsDay show that Grace’s actions, abetted by State institutions, violated villagers’ rights to shelter, water and education, among others.
“The ZHRC notes that the relocation of people from Arnold Farm without suitable alternative land was not sanctioned by the courts as required by the law, and is, therefore, in violation of numerous rights,” the commission said.
“In the course of the evictions, the rights to freedom from arbitrary evictions, education, health administrative justice [and] freedom of movement were chief among those negatively impacted.”
Mugwadi’s commission urged the government to consider compensating the victims before eviction.
“It is worth noting that the issue of adequate compensation to the affected families continues to be a bone of contention, which State institutions involved in this exercise have not prioritised.
“The State, when effecting evictions through its institutions, should ensure the evictees possess a degree of security of tenure, which guarantees legal protection against forced evictions, harassment and other threats,” the report continued.
It further noted that the actions of State agencies in the attempted evictions that drew local and international condemnation were unco-ordinated, leading to the rights violations.
“The evictions at Arnold Farm were not well co-ordinated between government agencies and caused numerous violations and suffering on the evictees and, in brief, the evictions and demolitions at Arnold Farm were unconstitutional and are a clear violation of rights as stated in the declaration of human rights,” the report said.
Police and other security agencies early this year stormed the farm compound and bundled scores of villagers into trucks before dumping them in forests in Mvurwi, leaving many injured, including a man who lost an eye.
ZHRC then set about to investigate the issue, but met with stiff resistance from Grace’s aides, including Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha.
Dinha yesterday said he was yet to see the report.
“I have not seen it yet. I would have to contact the commission,” he said.
Dinha has, in the past, claimed Grace was allocated the farm by government to establish a wildlife conservancy.
Mugwadi, without going into detail, also confirmed the commission had visited the area after initially being denied access to victims by the police and Grace’s allies.
This comes shortly after Grace hogged the international limelight for the wrong reasons two weeks ago after she stormed a South African hotel and attacked a 20-year-old model, Gabriella Engels, whom she found partying with her two sons Robert Jnr and Chatunga Bellarmine.