HARARE – Former Justice deputy minister and Mazowe South legislator, Fortune Chasi, continues to be the only Zanu PF bigwig who has the courage to publicly empathise with poor families being evicted from a Mazowe farm by First Lady Grace Mugabe to pave way for the expansion of her vast business empire in the area.
However, a party insider told the Daily News yesterday that Chasi’s “brave and admirable” stand was likely to cost him his parliamentary seat soon as “opposing Amai (Grace) is simply a suicidal mission within the party at the moment”.
“There is no doubt that Comrade Chasi’s stand on this matter is not just principled, it is brave and admirable.
“Sadly, it is likely to cost him his parliamentary seat as opposing Amai (Grace) is simply a suicidal mission within the party at the moment, moreso since Honourable Chasi has long been a marked man.
“Even higher authorities (within Zanu PF) fear crossing Amai’s path, which means the end is nigh for him, with his seat likely to end up with the First Lady herself,” the central committee member, who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation, said.
Contacted by the Daily News for a comment on the controversial evictions, Chasi — who was recently fired as a junior minister by President Robert Mugabe for his perceived support for former vice president Joice Mujuru — said yesterday that the government needed to be sensitive to the plight of poor people.
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. Grace viciously attacked Chasi in August last year, 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 last year, the First Lady 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 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 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.
But contrary to Chasi’s brave stand on the matter Mashonaland Central minister of State, Martin Dinha, claimed in an interview with the Daily News yesterday that the evicted families were illegal settlers and, therefore should pave way for the First Family “to do as it pleases”.
“I am currently on leave but I am well aware of that case. This is not a new matter, we have dealt with it before and these people should return to the plots we gave them. That is a conservancy not a place for agriculture,” Dinha said.
Dickson Mafios, Zanu PF provincial chairperson for Mashonaland Central, said the villagers had to leave the farm immediately.
“I know what is happening in Mazowe area. Amai Mugabe havafanire kunetswa. (Grace must not be bothered). I know these people were given farms to live on and they have returned.
“Some of them are illegal gold miners. Manzou is a game reserve area and what are people doing there? It is supposed to be a tourist attraction area in the province and we do not want illegal people living there,” Mafios said.
Commenting on the eviction of the villagers from Manzou Farm, MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai on Thursday tore into the First Lady accusing her of being insensitive to the plight of poor Zimbabweans.
“It is a disgrace really. You cannot have that. Zanu PF has survived on chaos and impunity. This is a typical testimony of insensitivity, at this hour when rains are pouring and you start instituting those measures,” Tsvangirai observed ruefully.
Police have not just been destroying the evicted families’ homes and heartlessly slashing their maize crops, they have also left traumatised women, frail old people and young children to their own devices in the open, in driving rain. And with schools set to open next week, it is clear that many children will suffer the consequences and miss school. It is understood that Grace wants to turn the fertile farm into a lucrative animal sanctuary.
“Dai anga ari mwana wako asiri kuenda kuchikoro achirara panze (If it was your child who was not going to school and was sleeping in the open), how would you feel?
“How would you feel for those poor families you are evicting? And the irony of it is you are removing them to make way for animals instead of people,” Tsvangirai said.
“I think the time has come to call Grace to order because this is a run of madness,” Tsvangirai added on Thursday. Daily News