Grace expands her empire

Cops demolish 50 more homes [Arnold farm, Grace Mugabe]

March 24, 2017 - By Everson Mushava

Police yesterday swooped again on Arnold Farm and pulled down over 50 homes allegedly to pave way for First Lady Grace Mugabe, who reportedly wants to expand her business empire in Mazowe.

Evicted villagers seek shelter from the rains after their homes were destroyed by police officers at Arnold Farm in Mazowe

Some of the affected villagers — who were expected to leave a thriving maize crop after a season of plentiful rains — said over a dozen police officers stormed the farm yesterday morning and continued with demolitions of villagers’ houses to force them off the land.

They claimed that the police still destroyed their homes even in instances where the villagers were not at home, throwing many into destitution.

When NewsDay visited the farm on Wednesday, helpless villagers sat dejectedly beside their belongings pondering their next move while a thick cloud hovered above threatening a heavy downpour.

“Today (yesterday) they destroyed 50 homes. On Wednesday, they destroyed 35 out of the 143 homes on the farm,” one villager said.

“We don’t have anywhere to go. Last night, it rained incessantly and we had to salvage the remains of the thatch grass to build makeshift shelters for our children while elders slept in the rains. The situation is just hopeless. We want to move, but we don’t have anywhere to go. The government has not given us alternative land.”

In 2015 homes were also demolished and over 700 villagers evicted from the nearby Manzou Farm, again 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 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 in the property, saying she wanted to build a secondary school, hospital and Robert Mugabe University.

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.

Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha last week indicated he wanted to check details of the eviction with Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora. He was not reachable yesterday for a comment.

A top Lands ministry official last week confirmed the farm had been taken over by the First Family and a Chinese firm to establish a blasting factory.