By Lloyd Mbiba
Wild animals released into Manzou Farm in Mazowe — that has been appropriated by First Lady Grace Mugabe, are giving villagers a torrid time, with lawyers representing the poor families filing High Court papers last week to force the government to have the animals removed within 48 hours.
The villagers, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, told the Daily News on Sunday that about 100 zebras had already been released onto the farm by the Department of National Parks — with the animals costing the families sleepless nights as they were foraging on planted crops.
“We are having difficulty with zebras here which were brought to this farm this week. We do not want to kill them or do anything. But they are constantly coming to our homesteads and we are chasing them away to the bush.
“The major problem is that the animals are causing havoc in our fields and our kids are also now afraid of playing outside,” one of the villagers said.
Another villager said the carting of the zebras onto their farm was a desperate ploy by authorities to force them off the contested farm.
“These zebras were brought here to force us to move away. But we refuse to be illegally evicted. We want things to be done correctly.
“If we are removed we should be taken to a proper place. After all we are Zimbabweans and we should be treated fairly,” said the villager.
Tonderai Bhatasara, a lawyer representing some of the affected villagers, told the Daily News on Sunday that they had filed High
Court papers on Friday to force the government to remove the zebras.
“We filed papers to the High Court after we got instruction from our clients that about 100 zebras had been moved into Arnold farm (Manzou Farm).
“Our clients told us that the zebras had been moved in, in an attempt to evict them, which is contrary to the High Court order stopping the evictions,” Bhatasara said.
“So our clients felt strongly that the animals were being used to evict them. We gave them 48 hours to remove the animals.
“We cited Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi, Environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere, police commissioner Augustine Chihuri and trustees of national parks,” he added.
Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) told the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, this week that Manzou Farm should not be turned into a game park as the wild animals would be a problem to villagers in surrounding areas.
“Mazowe is an agricultural area and the wild animals will cause a lot of problems for the villagers. I think Mazowe should be reserved for agriculture activities and not a game park,” Rodrigues said.
The ZCTF chairman added that all in all a whopping $10 million would be required to turn the farm into a successful game park — money that the government does not have and has not budgeted for.
As it is, the Department of National Parks is wilting under a serious lack of funding for its existing work around the country, which calls into question where the funding for Manzou Farm is coming from.
Officials have so far been tight-lipped about whether the money being used by the government at Manzou Farm will be recouped from Grace.
Two weeks ago, heavily armed police descended on the farm, indiscriminately and arbitrarily demolishing homes, slashing crops and setting on fire personal belongings of the villagers.
However, High Court judge Erica Ndewere last week granted a provisional order halting the eviction of the more than 200 families from the farm, until the government gave them alternative land. Daily News