By Everson Mushava
MAZOWE – Police yesterday swooped on Manzou Farm in Mazowe and forcibly evicted over 200 villagers after demolishing their makeshift homes to pave way for First Lady Grace Mugabe’s planned private multimillion dollar wildlife sanctuary project.
Some of the affected villagers — who left behind a thriving maize crop — said about six truckloads of armed police stormed the area early yesterday morning and demolished their pole-and-dagga houses.
In instances where the villagers were not at home, the police allegedly just stormed into their houses and threw out their property before pulling down the structures.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba and principal director (State Residences) Dzepasi Innocent Tizora could not be reached for comment as their mobile phones were continuously not being answered yesterday.
Although police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said she was in a meeting, NewsDay witnessed two villagers, identified as Paradzai Kazingizi and Misheck Matema, being forced to flee as police closed in on them after the pair attempted to resist the destructions.
When NewsDay arrived at the farm, hordes of villagers sat pensively besides their belongings pondering their next move while a thick cloud hovered over the area threatening a heavy downpour.
“They (police) came this (yesterday) morning and ordered us to remove all our belongings from the houses. They destroyed the houses using our hoes, axes and their equipment. They told us to go where we were before we moved to Manzou Farm way back in 2000,” one of the villagers, Canaan Chamboko, said.
As reported by NewsDay yesterday, the villagers were being ordered out of Spenenken and Arnold farms, which form Manzou Estate. Some of the villagers claimed that First Lady Grace wanted to set up a game park, apart from mining gold that was abundant in the estate.
“The police told us that all the people from Spenenken and Arnold farms should vacate. We do not resist eviction, but they should allocate us alternative land in line with the High Court ruling made last year,” another villager, Dernboy Chaparadza, said.
The police in March last year, demolished homes and evicted over 700 villagers from the same farm, allegedly at the instigation of the First Family.
The villagers were later dumped in Rushinga, Lazy and Blagdon farms in Concession before they took legal action and got a High Court reprieve to stay at the property until they had been allocated an alternative piece of land to settle.
The villagers then started trooping back to Manzou Estate on the strength of the High Court order.
“We voted for Zanu PF, but they take us like we are nothing. They only want us towards elections and dump us afterwards. They have destroyed the manufacturing industry and some of us, although we are professionals, now survive on subsistence farming. They now take land away from us, how do they expect us to survive?” Chaparadza queried.
A villager, Innocent Dube, added: “We have elderly relatives and children, what are we going to do with them in the open this rainy season? Look, very soon it will be raining yet our homes have been destroyed.”
The villagers said the sad thing was that efforts to evict them were always made during the summer cropping season.
“Is that how we should treat each other in an independent Zimbabwe?” a female villager, who could not be named, wondered.
The villagers said they had been staying at the farm under the 2006 Rural Land Occupiers Act, but efforts to regularise their stay had been hitting a brick wall since they moved in at the height of the chaotic land reform exercise in 2000.
Grace a few months ago confirmed her interest over the property, saying she wanted to build a secondary school, hospital and Robert Mugabe University at the site.
The Mugabe family already operates a thriving dairy project, Alpha Omega Dairy, a subsidiary of Gushungo Holdings, an orphanage home and elite primary school in the Mazowe area. NewsDay