Villagers at Manzou Farm in Mazowe, who were evicted to pave way for the expansion of First Lady Grace Mugabe’s business empire, have defied odds and delivered a collective two tonnes of maize in a practical demonstration of their commitment to serious farming.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Innocent Dube, a spokesperson of the farmers, who have been constantly harassed by Zanu PF and State security agents claiming to be acting on Grace’s behalf, said the settlers wanted to “dispel the notion that we are illegal panners”.
“These people who are acting on behalf of the First Lady have harassed us, stopped us from tending to our crops, but this is what we have produced. We could have done even better if we had been left in peace to work on our pieces of land,” he said.
“They accuse us of being gold panners, but this goes to show these are all lies. They just want the land.”
Dube showed NewsDay an invoice from the Grain Marketing Board indicating that, indeed, the villagers had delivered grain to the parastatal.
He added that the farmers had stayed on despite the harassment and violence.
“Our rights have been violated by one of the most powerful people in the country using State apparatus, but we have stayed on. All we ask for is alternative land, but they have not provided us with any. Instead, they have sought to dump us in the middle of nowhere,” Dube said.
Grace claims she was invited by the Mashonaland Central authorities led by Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha, but indications are the First Family wants to expand its empire and annex the farm as part of Gushungo Dairies.
Dinha, for his part, claims the government wants to turn the farm into a conservancy and Grace would help with bringing in investors.
There has been an international outcry over Grace’s bid to forcibly remove the poor villagers, who have court orders against eviction.
But the First Lady’s proxies have disregarded the decisions of the court and continue with the violent removals.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, after an investigation, called on the authorities to respect the law, find alternative land for the villagers and stop the forcible evictions.