PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, who last year took over part of former Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed agro producer Interfresh’s Mazoe Citrus Estate, has occupied more land on the estate, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.
Grace, who has vast tracts of land in the country, at the time claimed she wanted to expand her orphanage located close to the productive estate.
Sources said the First Lady has been allocated an additional 800 hectares of Mazoe Citrus estate after she got over 1 600 hectares last year.
Her occupation of part of Mazoe Citrus was the second time the First Lady had displaced resettled farmers in Mazowe after she left over 50 families homeless by occupying Manzou Game Reserve two years ago. The latest occupation cements the Mugabes’ reputation as multiple farm owners, contrary to Zanu PF’s land redistribution policy.
Three years ago people who had bought residential stands from the Mazoe Rural District Council in 1998 were issued with eviction letters and promised alternative accommodation and compensation to pave way for the construction of the First Lady’s orphanage.
At the height of Zimbabwe’s chaotic land reform programme, Mugabe castigated his inner circle for multiple farm ownership, advocating for a one man, one farm policy. But in a typical Orwellian fashion, the Mugabes are amassing land in the Mashonaland Central province in violation of the “one man, one farm” credo.
Sources said Grace wants more land and could repossess nearby farms in the area, something that has spooked farmers around the farming area. Part of Mazoe Citrus was first occupied by Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere almost a decade ago.
Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha, who is believed to be instrumental in the designation of the land and its parceling out to the First Lady, was not available for comment at the time of going to print as his phone was not reachable.
Around the same time last year, Dinha promised to provide more land to the First Lady during the official opening of the Amai Mugabe Junior School in the area, saying the school and the orphanage had given the province a facelift. It is not clear why Grace needs over 2 000 hectares of land, but there is speculation she could be looking at developing the land into a residential area.
“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.”
Interfresh last year said the portion allocated to the Mugabes’ represented 46% of Mazoe Citrus Estate’s total arable land, 30% of its budgeted revenue for the financial year 2013 and 52% of the value of immovable and biological assets.
They have since lodged an appeal with the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement.
The newly-occupied land is adjacent to the land the first family occupied last year and has citrus and crops such as maize. It’s not clear if the company will be allowed to harvest its crop this time around.
High Court judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo was forced to take legal action against Grace a few years ago after she had seized his farm.
The dispute only ended after an out-of-court settlement. In court papers, Hlatshwayo reportedly said the “unlawful conduct” by Gushungo Holdings, the Mugabes’ holding company, clearly had “no lawful basis for such interference, which conduct, by its very nature, amounts to spoliation”.
At a meeting with journalists about four years ago, Mugabe disclosed that he owned Highfield Farm in Norton, which he bought in the early 1980s. Apart from these farms, the First Family also owns Gushungo Dairy in Mazowe where the company’s dairy operation is located.
Grace has also been linked to the occupation of land belonging to a prestigious school along Borrowdale road.
Efforts to get comment from Interfresh CEO Lishon Chipango proved fruitless at the time of going to print. Questions sent to his mobile number had not been responded to at the time of going to print.