By Everson Mushava
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa says former first lady Grace Mugabe owns a staggering 16 commercial farms in a revelation that could re-ignite the public spat between the Zanu PF leader and his predecessor Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe, who was toppled in a coup in November 2017 that paved way for Mnangagwa to take over, has repeatedly accused the new administration of hounding his family.
The two appeared to have mended their relationship after the government hired an expensive private jet for Grace to come home and bury her mother last year, but Mnangagwa’s revelation that the former first lady is one of the bigwigs set to lose some farms after a land audit could create tension.
“The (land audit) is still ongoing and results will be made public. The briefing I have received is that only two provinces are left to complete the process,” the president said in an interview aired by the state-controlled Capitalk FM on Friday.
“The main issue we have identified is the issue of multiple farm ownership, especially among people in higher offices.
“For example, I know of one lady who has 16 farms — Dr Stop It.”
Grace became known as “Dr Stop It” at the height of Zanu PF factionalism where she used rallies to admonish Mugabe’s then deputies Joice Mujuru and Mnangagwa.
She accused the two of trying to usurp Mugabe’s power so that they could enrich themselves.
Mujuru was eventually kicked out of government in 2014, while Mnangagwa was fired in 2017 before he bounced back a few days later following the military coup.
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure said rhetoric had been Mnangagwa’s hallmark since he took over power from Mugabe two years ago and he was good at sugarcoating things on the ground that otherwise realistically are bad.
He said his radio interview revealed that he lacked understanding of issues on the ground.
“What he said is good, but is divorced from the reality on the ground,” Masunungure said.
“What he said yesterday was not a departure from his usual rhetoric. What people now want is a realistic description of the issues on the ground and how as the leader of the country, he is going to address them.”
He added: “Most of the problems Zimbabwe is facing are structural, that cannot be addressed by rhetoric.”
Masunungure said when Mnangagwa said he did not understand why people hiked prices, he showed that he did not understand the principles of business that drove the economy. He said prices responded to inflation and business did that to be able to restock.
On the issue of Grace’s farms, Masunungure said: “And what has he done about it two years into power? It is the same thing. He has been promising to deal with corruption and nothing comes up.”
The land audit that Mnangagwa was referring to started when Mugabe was still in power and two years after his exit, the process is yet to be finalised.
A report by the Presidential Land Resettlement Committee compiled in 2005 showed that about 329 top Zanu PF officials were holding on to multiple farms measuring 55 513, 668 hectares.
The report was compiled by a committee chaired by then Special Affairs minister for Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, the late John Nkomo.
Mnangagwa on Friday said once the report, which was due in April, was released, people that abused their power to grab land would be exposed.
Jealousy Mawarire, who soon after the November 2017 coup was speaking on behalf of the Mugabe family, refused to comment, but took to Twitter to describe Mnangagwa as a comical president who did not deserve any attention.
“I heard Mnangagwa talk about someone owning 16 farms, if ED wasn’t a clown, I would have responded but since he is a street theatre president, his gimmicks should be left kumarabu (junk yard),” Mawarire tweeted after Mnangagwa’s interview.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa has said he cannot engage MDC leader Nelson Chamisa in dialogue to end the economic crisis the country is facing because the main opposition leader is not “special”.
“I cannot get a bulldozer or tractor to pull him out of his house for talks. I have made a call to all political parties in Zimbabwe that let us come together,” he said. “Is he not a leader of a political party in Zimbabwe?”
Chamisa snubbed talks initiated by Mnangagwa, demanding “genuine” talks that should also address the legitimacy question created by last year’s elections.
However, Zanu PF has outrightly rejected the demands, saying Mnangagwa won last year’s elections fairly.
Mnangagwa told Capitalk FM that the economy was on a rebound and dismissed calls to introduce the rand as the main currency in Zimbabwe.
“At the moment, the RTGS is the strongest currency in the region,” Mnangagwa said, imploring citizens to tighten their belts in order to weather the austerity measures that his government has introduced.
He accused businesses of profiteering and vowed that the government would take action.
“One person kills a chicken, it is not bought, he puts it in a fridge. Tomorrow it has a new price, the following day another price, what has changed? Nothing,” Mnangagwa said.
“There will come a time we will make miserable the businesses of those taking advantage of our people.”
He said he had been told of cases where prices of commodities changed three times a day.
Mnangagwa said he wanted to leave a legacy of being a reformist by ensuring that draconian laws were repealed.
“I want to leave a legacy of reform,” Mnangagwa said. “We must embrace reforms in everything that we do.
“That is why we are repealing the Public Order and Security Act and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, two pieces of legislation that have been heavily criticised.
“Reform is the way to go, the process will be hard, but we will fulfil our potential, we will build out Zimbabwe for all.”
Mnangagwa’s government has been accused of closing the democratic space in the country through the arrest of civil society activists, with at least 20 people having been charged with treason so far this year.