Miners sue Grace over utterances

HARARE - Former first lady Grace Mugabe has been slapped with a $ 100 000 lawsuit by artisanal miners she is engaged with in the fight to control the gold-rich Smithfield Farm in Mazowe.

Last week Grace told the media that laptops and other valuables had been stolen from her Mazowe business hub during an invasion by artisanal miners looking for gold at the mineral-rich Smithfield Farm.

However, both the government and the miners have strongly disputed her claims — amid subsequent revelations that the former first family was embroiled in a messy dispute with three mining syndicates which have applied for an order from the High Court compelling their Gushungo Dairies to leave the mining claim.

Former president Robert Mugabe and Grace own the debt-ridden company and also have extensive farming interests in the area.

In their papers filed in the High Court on Wednesday, Shepherd Nyazvigo and Phillip Makanya said Grace’s utterances were harmful to their standing as they were portrayed as lawless people.

“The first plaintiff (Nyazvigo) duly represented by second plaintiff (Makanya), one Bright Matonga and Rizwan Khan who holds mining claims Mondo 3 and Xmas 159, are embroiled in a dispute of ownership with Gushungo Holdings (Private) Limited and the dispute is pending in the High Court.

“On the 2nd of April, 2018, the defendant (Grace) uttered words and caused to be published … and read by millions of people that the plaintiffs whom she referred to as illegal miners invaded her farm and are unlawfully carrying mining operations thereon and also destroying her lemon fruit trees,” the court was told.

“Further the defendant alleges the plaintiffs as untrustworthy people and thieves who are stealing the property belonging to the defendant.

“The plaintiffs are now being viewed by their business associates, colleagues and members of the public and society at large as thieves and illegal miners yet the plaintiffs hold licences to carry mining operations thereon.

“The plaintiffs suffered damages in defamation of character as a result of the utterances by defendant…,” the court heard.

The pair is now demanding $100 000 in damages for defamation of character and interest prescribed at the rate of five percent per annum from the date of the summons to the date of judgment.

Grace has not yet responded to the summons but has 10 working days within which to file an appearance to defend.

Nyazvigo and Khan are embroiled in a bitter wrangle with the Mugabes over the Mazowe Smithfield Farm.

Gushungo Holdings has approached the High Court seeking to evict the small-scale miners, whom they accuse of disturbing their farming activities on the farm.

High Court judge Justice Happias Zhou ruled in January that pending determination of the matter, the Zimbabwe Republic Police officer-in-charge and the Gushungo Holdings security officer, through their subordinates, should allow the small-scale miners unhindered access to their mining claims, namely Xmas 122, 123, 102 and 103 and Mondo 4, Mondo 3 and Xmas 159.

This prompted the Mugabes to approach the High Court on an urgent basis seeking to evict the miners.

The matter was, however, ruled not to have met the requirements of urgency, prompting Grace’s firm to refile another application, claiming the mining operations were hindering farming activities at the farm and that the matter ought to be heard urgently.

This resulted in High Court judge Davison Foroma’s ruling in which he said the impasse between the parties must be heard on an urgent basis.

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