Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe has added to her vast swathe of prime fertile land holding in her country.
He latest catch is Manzou Farm a conservancy abandoned by its white owners some years back in Mazowe South constituency.
Manzou Farm, a vast and fertile line which Mrs. Mugabe intends to convert into a wildlife sanctuary, is said to border her other multi-million business and farming interest in the area.
For the purpose about 1,200 poor families living on the farm have been forcibly evicted and resettled elsewhere
Ruling Zanu PF political figures and government officials, led by Martin Dinha, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Mashonaland Central, had in the past stridently denied media reports that the eviction were being carried out for the benefit of the First Lady.
But last Wednesday night Dinha, finally confirmed that the farm was to be given to First Lady Grace Mugabe after all, who will run it as a wildlife sanctuary.
This means, the media have interpreted, that Grace the First Lady will replace the poor families of Manzou with wild animals.
In his volt face 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,” after spending days denying that the controversial, illegal and callous evictions were for the benefit of Grace.
“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 newsmen 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.