HARARE – With little or no notice, the police burned and demolished scores of homes at a farm in Mazowe to make way for President Robert Mugabe’s rapacious wife Grace — who wants to expand her vast business interests in the area.
Scores of Zimbabwean citizens lost their homes and livelihoods as a result of the demolition job which echoes the internationally condemned 2005 “Operation Murambatsvina”.
As reported elsewhere in this edition, Zimbabwe’s opposition political parties are outraged.
So controversial have the evictions been that many Zimbabweans have over the past few days been questioning Grace’s sincerity to her philanthropic work and commitment to the disadvantaged — which she loves to brag about — particularly as the violent removals are also in blatant violation of the country’s laws.
The action is in total disregard of a High Court order obtained by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) last year to stop the evictions.
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 this week, it is clear that many children will suffer the consequences and miss lessons. It is understood that Grace wants to turn the fertile farm into a lucrative animal sanctuary.
The humanitarian crisis facing the displaced is beyond measure and we urge President Robert Mugabe to urgently intervene and stop this senseless and inhuman grabbing of land by his wife.
Political parties, non-governmental organisations and legislators argue that government’s actions violate the purpose and provisions of the Rome Statute.
Zimbabwe is not a party to the Rome Statute, and the Manzou violations are unfolding within its own territory and against its own citizens.
Grace must understand that the people she is mercilessly evicting also have rights just like her and the entire first family.
Surely we cannot allow one person to terrorise innocent people like this — treating them like animals.
Legal experts say this demolition job is illegal and whoever is responsible should be held to account.
Mugabe must intervene because government usually refuses to hold the responsible parties accountable or to provide a forum for redress for dispossessed citizens who are guaranteed rights of action at law.
But one worrying aspect is that Grace is clearly overwhelming Mugabe in terms if key decisions in the country.
The international community must strongly condemn the operation, coming at the height of the southern hemisphere’s very wet rainy season, to send a message that internal displacements are an international human rights problem, rather than a purely domestic issue.