HARARE - Observers say claims by Zanu PF and Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha that First Lady Grace Mugabe is not behind the ongoing illegal evictions of poor villagers at Manzou Farm in Mazowe are “perplexing to say the least”.
The ruling party claimed in a statement at the weekend that reports that Grace was behind the callous evictions were allegedly politically-motivated and calculated to soil her image.
“Zanu PF is deeply concerned and angered by repeated falsehoods targeted at the Secretary for Women’s Affairs Dr Grace Mugabe.
“We are especially distressed by the latest claim, which is completely and utterly baseless, that Dr Grace has any entitlement to or anything to do with the ongoing eviction of people from Manzou Farm which authorities say was designated not as a residential area but a national heritage site several years ago.
“We view this relentless onslaught on the good name of Dr Mugabe as politically-motivated and call upon all those who are behind this sordid campaign to stop it forthwith,” it said.
Dinha — whom affected families at Manzou Farm emphatically vow is in the full know of the real facts surrounding their dire plight despite his claims to the contrary — said the province was allegedly making efforts to restore the farm to its status as a national heritage site, without explaining how this would be done.
“It (the farm) has nothing to do with the First Family at all. This business of abusing the name of the first lady, her privacy and integrity must come to an end.
“Zimbabwe is not a banana republic as wished by some people and we have not deteriorated to that level of lawlessness and anarchy,” Dinha told lickspittle State media at the weekend.
But former Justice deputy minister and Mazowe South legislator, Fortune Chasi, told the Daily News on Friday that the government needed to be sensitive to the plight of the affected families.
And as a result, he said, he would work with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) to help the traumatised families.
“I have been to my constituency and have witnessed evidence of the displaced people. Given that the atmosphere is charged and tense, I was unable to do anything.
“There were armed police evicting people and what can I do under those circumstances as I become powerless since the whole matter involves the First Family,” Chasi said.
In fact, observers say, Grace herself publicly confirmed her interest in Manzou Farm last year and viciously attacked Chasi then, after she accused him of trying to thwart her bid to acquire more farming land in the area.
On this allegation, Chasi said, “The first lady has been misinformed that I was against her taking the farm in the constituency. I know that some politicians in the province misinformed her that I was fighting her bid to occupy the area and it is very unfortunate.
“The fact is, affected families only appealed to me for help as their MP, and I never intended to fight the first lady.”
In her vitriolic attacks on him in August last year, Grace accused Chasi of “terrorising” her in the area, where she owns a number of farms and runs her Amai Grace Mugabe Children’s Home.
She also accused him of spreading falsehoods about her and her controversial land grabs, ostensibly in a quest to tarnish the name of the first family.
“Zvazvakaita ndakaita apply pane conservancy iri kuseri uko (said to be Manzou) which was being run by the whites,” she said. “Ndikangoona yakagara, then I applied to use it to raise mari yekuchengeta vana pano apa ndobva ndapiwa tsamba inini.
“Saka vanhu vakangozvigarisa vaichera chera imomo vakanzi vabude, iye (Chasi) akati ‘muri kuvaburitsirei? Mugabe nemukadzi wake vari kuda kutora land yese.’ Akaenda kucourt nevanhu vaye kuti kana hazvimboite.
“Iye akapiwa farm naVa(Martin) Dinha akariramba. Akatengwa nemurungu akapiwa mari akati handiride,” she said.
(I applied for a conservancy in this area (Manzou) which was being run by whites. I had seen it lying idle and I applied to use it to raise money to look after children at the Mazowe Children’s Home and I was given an offer letter by authorities. The people who were squatting on that conservancy were then ordered off the property, but Chasi queried why these people were being kicked off the land. He alleged that Mugabe and his wife wanted to take all the land. Chasi went to court with these squatters to resist the takeover of the conservancy. But he was given land by Martin Dinha and he refused because he had been given money by the white owner.)
In further bizarre remarks, the first lady also claimed that Chasi had also made false allegations that she had engineered the eviction of a famous traditional healer who was staying at Henderson Farm in Mazowe, when the healer had been expelled by the Mashonaland Central leadership.
She said she had running battles in Mazowe with people who accused her of grabbing land, including a farm belonging to Interfresh, adding that it was the Mashonaland Central leadership that had allocated her a portion of Interfresh Farm that was lying idle.
“We do not know what Dinha is going on about. It really is perplexing to say the least as he knows fully well that Grace wants this farm (Manzou) and that the evictions are to facilitate her use of the said farm, as she herself said at one of her rallies last year,” a local Zanu PF official said.