HARARE – The blatant lies by senior Zanu PF political figures and government officials regarding Manzou Farm in Mazowe are finally over after the minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Mashonaland Central, Martin Dinha, finally confirmed that the farm will be given to First Lady Grace Mugabe after all, who will run it as a wildlife sanctuary.
This means, as the Daily News has reported all along, that Grace will replace the poor families of Manzou with wild animals.
In a sudden about-turn on Wednesday night, Dinha confirmed that Grace had applied for a licence to run an animal sanctuary and had been duly awarded the vast and fertile farm bordering her other multi-million business and farming interests in the area.
He did not say how much this project of moving animals to the farm and repairing infrastructure such as the fencing would cost, and whether Grace would pay for all this.
Hundreds of desperate families have already been removed from the farm, notwithstanding a court order barring the police from ejecting the poor peasants.
“Affirmatively, the first lady has applied for a permit to run part of Manzou. We have recommended that she be given a permit,” the exposed Dinha told VOA’s Studio 7 — after spending days denying that the controversial, illegal and callous evictions were for the benefit of Grace.
He said by next week, the National Parks department would have already released lions and elephants onto the farm.
“As we speak, the Department of National Parks is already putting a fence and by Monday next week lions and elephants will be on that farm.”
Last week, heavily armed police descended on Manzou Farm, indiscriminately and arbitrarily demolishing homes, slashing crops and setting on fire personal belongings of the villagers.
At the time Dinha, along with Zanu PF, denied vehemently that the First Family was in any way involved in the evictions, arguing falsely and rather self-servingly that Grace was a “philanthropist” who would never destroy people’s livelihoods.
This was after High Court Judge Erica Ndewere had on Monday granted a provisional order stopping the evictions if no alternative places of residence were not availed by the state.
A chorus of condemnation to the callous removals, including the displacement of children from their school, as well as the wanton destruction of crops and property, had fallen on deaf ears.
In his new tune, Dinha claimed yesterday that 1 200 families from Manzou had already been resettled, and that only a handful of people were resisting the resettlement.
“These people are mischievous. We have already found them land to settle elsewhere and they are trying to stop us. The relief they got from the High Court was only temporary and not final,” he said.
Former Justice deputy minister and Mazowe South legislator, Fortune Chasi, told the Daily News last week that the government needed to be sensitive to the plight of the affected 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, in her vitriolic attacks on Chasi in August last year, accused the legislator of “terrorising” her in the area, where she owns a number of farms and runs her Amai Grace Mugabe Children’s Home.
She also disclosed then, and the video of this is available on YouTube, that she wanted the Manzou Farm.
“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.)