HEAVILY armed police yesterday evicted over 300 people living at Spelenken Farm in Mazowe, Mashonaland Central, as a new wave of evictions hit the farming area where First Lady, Grace Mugabe has taken over vast tracts of land.
BY NDAMU SANDU
The police reportedly arrived at the farm as early as 4am and had, by 2pm, loaded up the settlers onto police lorries and drove them off to unknown destinations.
Although the identity of the new owner who is set to take over the farm from “Ambuya Nehanda” could not be ascertained, it was evident that it was a very important person considering the heavy presence of police and intelligence officers.
The farm is close to First Lady Grace Mugabe’s properties in Mazowe.
The First Lady’s empire in Mazowe is expanding and recently Mazowe Citrus Estate lost over 800 hectares, leaving owners, Interfresh, in serious viability problems.
Minister of State for Mashonaland Central, Martin Dinha’s number was unavailable yesterday.
Dinha has in the past promised to allocate more land to the First Lady in the area to expand her projects.
“The land is no longer sufficient to sustain the projects the First Lady has on her sleeves,” Dinha said last year.
“We are working on the papers to stretch the land so that she can have more land to do her projects. Some people might say ‘The First Lady is greedy, why does she want more land?’, but we are saying it is justified for her to have more land.”
It remains to be seen who will take over the farm.
The police, numbering over 50 including high ranking officers yesterday barred The Standard from covering the evictions. They detained The Standard news crew for an hour, interrogating the team on its presence at the farm and taking their details including residential addresses and telephone numbers.
The crew’s camera was seized and images of the eviction deleted.
The news crew was escorted to the highway where the camera was returned before being ordered to leave.
This deliberate government action is set to expose hundreds of people, including women and children to the vagaries of the weather at a time the country is under a wet spell. The evictees said yesterday that they had no idea where they were being taken to but feared they were going to be dumped in the open — without shelter or food.
Thousands of villagers from Masvingo’s Tokwe-Mukosi dam basin are grappling for survival after they were forcibly displaced from their homes two months ago by the floods. Government has so far failed to assist them meaningfully with the only help coming from non-government organisations.
Mary Kazunga, a woman believed to be a spirit medium, known in the area as Mbuya Nehanda who owned the farm, told The Standard that she had been living at the farm for more than 14 years. She said she was pained by the evictions and did not know whether the place they were being taken to had adequate shelter.
“They are evicting us without notice. You can’t have a new home in the rainy season. We don’t know what will happen to our crops,” she said.
She said their homes had been destroyed in the past but were later rebuilt by soldiers. The farm had about 300 inhabitants including school-going children.
When The Standard news crew visited the farm yesterday, police were loading “Mbuya Nehanda’s” belongings into waiting trucks while others stood guard. The law enforcement agents, some of whom were in plain clothes, were armed while others were clad in riot gear in apparent anticipation of trouble.
Mashonaland Central provincial administrator Josphat Takundwa Jaji told The Standard that “Mbuya Nehanda” would be relocated to her village, Kazunga in Rushinga.
“She will be going to the village where she came from,” he said.
Jaji maintained that the farm belonged to government and the inhabitants had been given adequate notice.
Retired major Shakespeare Magado, said one of the houses on the farm was built by the Sally Mugabe Housing Co-op in recognition of the work by the spirit medium.
Magado said a senior Zanu PF official had previously saved them from eviction when government wielded the axe on them. He said the farm had 60 head of cattle and over 200 goats.