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Lions, elephants used to kick out Manzou villagers

Parks and Wildlife Management Authority employees were yesterday busy fencing Manzou Farm as they prepare to bring in the first batch of wild animals, reportedly lions and elephants.

By Everson Mushava

The move to bring in the dangerous animals, according to the beleaguered villagers that are still living at the farm on the strength of a High Court order, is meant to force them out of the farm without the police doing anything.

There is still no move by the government to relocate the villagers to an alternative piece of land as provided for by the court order.

What this means is that villagers would be chased away from the farm by the dangerous animals and they will not be able to go back to the courts to complain because it is the animals and not the police that would have forced them out.

As many as 150 families are reported to be still at the farm because they have nowhere else to go even though their houses and property were burnt down in last week’s brutal police eviction action.

Aspinas Makufa — one of the villagers whose home was destroyed by police last week — told The Standard that National Parks workers were on the ground erecting a fence in preparation for the first batch of animals.

“We feel government is defying a court order by bringing animals here before we are relocated. They are using animals to drive us away so that they would not seem as if they are in contempt of court. If they bring lions here, we have no choice but to move away,” Makufa said.

It was not clear how a national institution was getting involved in the construction of a fence on a property said to belong to First Lady Grace Mugabe (pictured right) who is putting up a personal multi-million dollar wildlife sanctuary there.

What would have been expected of National Parks was just to bring in the animals bought by the property owner but the business of making the place safe or protected would be left to the investor.

Makufa said over 150 villagers were still on Anold and Spenenken farms and were sleeping under trees, exposed to the vagaries of the weather. Heavy rains are reported to have fallen in the area yesterday.

Although Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha has said Grace had nothing to do with the evictions, he admitted that the First Lady had been granted a wildlife licence to operate the sanctuary, a move that confirms reports that the villagers were being evicted to expand Grace’s business empire in the green valley.

Parks spokesperson Caroline Washayamoyo was not available to give more light on who owns the wildlife sanctuary that gave them the instruction to fence the area. Anold and Spenenken farms were cattle ranching farms when the villagers moved in at the height of the land reform programme in 2000.

Police, allegedly under the command of Grace, have also reportedly ordered about 600 more families occupying the adjacent Cetic Farm 1 to 4 to vacate. The farm forms part of Manzou Estate which the First Lady is said to be determined to turn into a wildlife park.

“We are sleeping in the open with our children and we are not building any structures as police officers are always patrolling the area ordering us to leave, despite the court order,” Makufa said.

“They [police] say they are now bringing in animals like elephants and lions. It means they are technically throwing us out. We have cattle and goats, so how can we cohabit with lions?” asked the distraught Makufa.

Makufa, who together with other villagers on Friday returned to the courts to have Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi, Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri and Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora arrested for contempt of court, said they were not resisting eviction but they just did not have anywhere to go.

With the coming in of elephants on Manzou, some villagers said more people on surrounding farms were likely to be evicted. This would also mean the end of the Interfresh orange project as elephants would need more roaming space.

Elephants are known to love oranges and would stop at nothing to get to the orange estate and in the process ravage the nearby maize and other crops.

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