FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe’s predatory self-aggrandisement drive which has decimated the Mazowe citrus economy and turned it into a family empire, shows how a parasitic and selfish elite has emerged in Zimbabwe with little or no respect for the masses.
Candid Comment Owen Gagare
With the help of her husband, President Robert Mugabe, Grace has since 2011, built a massive empire in the scenic Mazowe valley of Mashonaland Central, about 37 kilometres from Harare, after displacing thousands of vulnerable people, including children and the elderly.
The First Family has over the years grabbed Spelenken, Mapfeni and Manzou farms, as well as 2 400 hectares of Mazowe Citrus Estate belonging to Interfresh Limited in Mazowe, as part of an ongoing empire-building exercise.
Grace’s land grabs have left Interfresh — formerly listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange — tottering on the brink of collapse.
In a stunning development, Mazowe villagers were last month barred from using Mazowe Dam amid indications Grace wants to use the iconic State-owned dam to commence a fish farming project.
Mazowe Dam was built in 1918 to irrigate citrus plantations and crops. It is the country’s 16th largest reservoir and has a capacity of 39,35 million cubic metres of water.
The dam played a critical role in the Mazowe economy, providing water for orange trees and other crops grown under irrigation on nearby farms. In addition, the dam is popular for fishing and water sports such as rowing and sailing.
But despite this rich historical significance, Grace has not batted an eyelid in grabbing the dam to fulfil what appears to be an ambition to build an empire in a picturesque environment with rolling mountains, wildlife and a huge water body.
She has built an opulent three-storey mansion at Mapfeni Farm, which is opposite her orphanage and the Amai Mugabe Junior School. She has also established a state-of-the-art dairy farm and is pushing hard to evict people from Manzou Farm to set up a private game park.
The Mazowe mansion is part of Grace’s list of residences which include the imposing “Blue Roof” palace — the First Family’s private residence in the leafy Borrowdale suburb in Harare.
The family has accumulated as many as 15 farms, including one grabbed from Supreme Court Judge Ben Hlatshwayo.
Although Grace has been spectacular in her grabbing spree, she is only following a culture which Mugabe has allowed to grow over the years among the ruling elite, whose greedy desires have been sated by his sprawling political patronage system.
The parasitic elite network has grabbed large tracts of land and looted parastatals and government departments without shame to build massive empires at the expense of taxpayers and the poor.
Mugabe’s silence, and indeed, his active participation in the ongoing looting spree as evidenced by the goings-on in Mazowe, is enough evidence that he has abandoned the masses and the ethos of the liberation struggle.