Felex Share Herald Reporter
The First Family does not own Manzou Farm in Mazowe and has nothing to do with the eviction of illegal settlers taking place in the area, Minister of State for Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs Advocate Martin Dinha said yesterday.
He said the area was not for human habitation and the province was making efforts to restore it to its former status as a national heritage site.
Manzou Farm was a game park and the Department of National Museums and Monuments declared it a national heritage site years ago.
However, it was invaded by illegal gold panners.
Adv Dinha said Government had “no apologies to make” as the evictions were merely a provincial exercise dealing with squatters.
“It has got nothing to do with the First Family at all,” he said.
“This business of abusing the name of the First Lady, her privacy and integrity must come to an end. Zimbabwe is not a banana republic as wished by some people and we have not deteriorated to that level of lawlessness and anarchy.”
Some sections of the media reported that the land invaders were evicted at the behest of the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe, claiming she wanted to set up a multi-million-dollar wildlife sanctuary.
Only 48 families, not 600 as touted by the private media, were giving the province headaches.
It emerged yesterday that the reason behind the families’ resistance was illegal gold panning with “certain politicians” in the province influencing them to stay.
Most of the land invaders came from Glendale and Chiweshe.
Said Adv Dinha: “Our people must know that we cannot just wake up and stay anywhere, those in need of land know we have authorities at district, provincial and national levels. We make no apology and we will deal with all illegal settlers accordingly. Spent forces like those influencing them have no political relevance.”
He said Manzou Farm was a Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management area and Government was moving towards re-establishing the game park and the Nehanda National Monument.
“The game park, prior to the land reform, was owned by a consortium of business people but at the height of the agrarian reform people invaded the area and started poaching and illegal gold panning activities also affecting Henderson Research Station, a Sadc quarantine center specialising in animal research in the process,” Adv Dinha said.
“Efforts to amicably restore the status of the game park has been met with stiff resistance because they (invaders) are being influenced politically. The whole of Manzou was designated as Nehanda National Monument with the same status as Great Zimbabwe. This means that it became a National Parks and a national heritage site, which had to be protected environmentally. In terms of this Government proclamation, the area should be preserved as a cultural heritage site and was not for occupation by people. The Provincial Development Committee resolved that they were going to resuscitate Manzou Game Park and its national monument status.”
He added: “Traditional authorities point out that Manzou was among the holiest national heritage sites in Zimbabwe having places such as Baradzanwa and Shavarunzi, where the great Mbuya Nehanda lived.”
He said because of illegal gold panning and political influence, the illegal settlers were refusing to go despite being offered an alternative place.
Although Adv Dinha, did not mention any names, First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe last year accused Mazowe South legislator Cde Fortune Chasi of terrorising her in Mazowe, where she runs a Children’s Home.
She said Cde Chasi, who was recently fired as Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Deputy Minister, was peddling falsehoods that the First Family wanted to take all the land in Mazowe.
Said Adv Dinha: “They simply do not want to leave the area because the main activity they are carrying out is gold panning thereby causing wanton destruction of vegetation, creating dongas not suitable for animal habitation.
“From 2008, I have had meetings with these people and they agreed to be removed. It’s not a communal area like areas adjacent such as Chinamhora, Chikwaka and Masembura.
“We have carried out an exercise where we relocated them to Lazy, Blagdon and Nyandirwi farms in Mazowe. Transport and all logistics were in place, schools and boreholes were there but they are still here (Manzou Farm).”
“It is only 48 families giving us problems yet another 1 200 families accepted their fate and are happily living in those areas allocated.”
When The Herald visited the area yesterday demolitions were still going on and some of the affected people interviewed pleaded for more time.
“We have crops and although we have been fighting for a long time, they should just give us more time than leaving us in the open,” said one villager identified as Mr King Makhosa.