ONCE a colossal figure, First Lady Grace Mugabe yesterday saw how powerless she has become, as illegal gold panners have invaded her farm in Mazowe destroying citrus fruit, irrigation equipment and disrupted activities at her orphanage.
BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
When Grace arrived at the farm and tried to confront the panners, they immediately broke into Kutongwa Kwaro, a song by Jah Prayzah synonymous with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ascension to power at the expense of her husband, former President Robert Mugabe, who was ousted following a military intervention.
“You don’t tell us to leave, we are just workers. Go and tell that to those who employed us,” one of the panners shouted, as Grace protested that this was her private property.
When NewsDay visited the farm yesterday, hundreds of panners were busy digging shafts in search of the precious metal after uprooting citrus trees.
Grace witnessed the panners busy digging and loading gold ore onto lorries for refining, while others were opening up fresh shafts, exposing irrigation pipes sunk metres deep.
The panners claimed they were employed by a Chinese miner they declined to name.
Grace tried in vain to order them off her property, with some saying in jest that they would only vacate the property if she provides them with jobs.
“You no longer have any power to remove us. This is the new dispensation, we do what we want,” one of the panners shouted when Grace left for Mazowe Police Station to report the matter.
Grace later went to Mazowe Police Station to make a report, where she implicated one Nyazvigo, as having dispatched the panners to her property.
“On the 29th day of March 2018 at around 11:30 hours, I was touring my farm, Smithfeld when I arrived at Lemon Pool section, I was shocked to find a group of approximately 400 men busy illegally panning for gold,” she said in a statement to police.
“I then asked them to stop their activities since I am the owner of the farm and I am the holder of a special grant for the whole area.
“However, the crowd, which was being led by one known as Nyazvigo started to shout obscenities at me and continued with their unlawful activities.
“The illegal activities have since destroyed my irrigation infrastructure, which feeds lemons pool section, and there is massive land degradation.”
Grace claimed she had a special grant from the Mines and Mining Development ministry for the area recorded under number 6045 signed on June 10, 2016.
Speaking to NewsDay after making the police report, Grace could not hide her anger at the panners.
“Does it mean that if President Mnangagwa is removed tomorrow, he will be disposed of his investments?
“Is this how he wants to be treated with his investments?
“This is politically motivated, as you can see that when we got there, they were singing kutonga kwaro garwe.”
The relationship between Mugabe and his former deputy has reportedly reached an all-time low after the former President intimated his support for the Ambrose Mutinhiri-led opposition National Patriotic Front if Mnangagwa refuses to “correct the November coup”.
The invasion followed reports of alleged withdrawal of security by Mnangagwa’s government from most of Mugabe’s properties after the former Zanu PF leader told international media recently that he was ousted in a coup engineered by his former deputy.