THE controversy around Iron Mask Farm took a fresh dimension this week as the new owners advertised equipment for auction at the farm, a development Lands minister Didymus Mutasa described as improper.
Iron Mask was acquired by t
he Zimbabwe Children’s Rehabilitation Trust (ZCRT) in 2002 with First Lady Grace Mugabe as the patron and RBZ governor Gideon Gono as chairman.
Iron Mask this week instructed Ruby Auctions to sell vehicles and farm equipment on the farm. The auction is scheduled to take place tomorrow in Mazowe.
The equipment was on the farm when it was seized from an elderly couple, John and Eva Matthews at the height of the fast-track land reform programme in 2002. The couple had to flee the country for South Africa.
Mutasa said it was illegal to sell equipment from an acquired farm.
“It’s illegal to sell equipment from an acquired farm,” Mutasa said yesterday. “You should tell whoever is auctioning the equipment that it’s not proper and should be stopped.”
An advertisement in a daily paper yesterday said Ruby Auctions had been instructed to sell six combine harvesters, two DAF eight-tonne trucks, 12 tractors and a wide range of farming implements.
“Duly instructed by Iron Mask Farm, we shall be selling the following farm equipment and vehicles to the highest bidder by public auction at Iron Mask Farm, behind Mazowe Hotel,” the advert said.
Controversy at Iron Mask started in August 2002 when Grace Mugabe collected keys to the $100 million, 27-roomed mansion on the farm after it was acquired by government for resettlement.
The authorities were quick to defend the acquisition saying the farm would be used for charity purposes. Gono was quoted as saying the farm had been allocated to the ZCRT, of which Grace Mugabe was a founder and patron.
Gono was on record as saying the trust had as of August 2002 mobilised about $50 million to kick-start charity projects on the farm.
In July Grace hosted a ground-breaking ceremony at the farm, at which Buddhist monks were introduced as the sponsors and architects of the proposed ZCRT state-of-the-art village.