THE Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has initiated moves to gazette the iconic Mazowe Dam as it emerged that Zanu PF bigwigs and senior government officials, whose farms are downstream and rely on the dam for irrigation purposes, have raised a red-flag over the grabbing of the dam by First Lady Grace Mugabe, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.
By Elias Mambo
Sources said since the Independent broke the Mazowe Dam grabbing story at the beginning of the month, several bigwigs have held meetings with Zinwa officials to push for the dam to be officially gazetted as a State dam.
Although Zinwa was controlling the dam, officials at the authority said that it has not yet been gazetted as a State dam. Interfresh Limited, which lost large tracts of land to Grace, inherited the dam’s permit from Anglo America.
“The dam was built in 1918 by Anglo America and bought by Interfresh,” said the source, adding that: “Interfresh holds a permit and is the owner of the dam. Part of Interfresh’s land was grabbed by Grace and now she has also grabbed the dam which happens to be in Manzou farm.”
Grace grabbed Manzou Farm in 2011 to set up a private game reserve. Her plan has however been stalled by some villagers, who have refused to vacate the farm where they settled in 2000 during the chaotic land reform programme. The villagers have remained on the farm, despite their homes being burnt, courtesy of a High Court order barring Grace from forcibly moving them.
A Zinwa official said contrary to reports by the Mashonaland provincial affairs minister Martin Dinha that Grace holds the Mazowe Dam permit, Interfresh had the permit, while all other users of the dam sign agreement forms.
“The water permit is in the hands of Interfresh and they pay US$2,06 per mega-litre (1 000 cubic metres),” said the official.
“All other users such as the First Family, A1 and A2 farmers downstream, pay between US$3,06 to US$7,06 per mega-litre.”
Zinwa sources said before a dam is gazetted, authorities consider a lot of issues, which include value of the dam to the community, as well as the number of people or institutions which benefit from the dam.
Mazowe dam provides water to Interfresh, Trojan and Ashanti mines, as well as Shamva, Glendale and Bindura towns.
It also provides irrigation water to farms owned by some senior Zanu PF and government officials who include, among many others, local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Central Intelligence Organisation deputy director general Daniel Tonde Nhepera, chief magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe and legislator Remegio Matangira.
Sources said Zinwa officials were finding it tough to distribute water equitably because Grace’s security personnel are now controlling the canal pumps.
“Zinwa authorities know how much water is needed for each farm downstream and they used to control the flow-metre but now the security personnel are just doing it randomly,” the source said.
“Some farmers end up without enough water because those opening and closing the canal pumps have no knowledge of how much water each famer requires.”
Grace is expanding her vast empire in the scenic Mazowe area by grabbing the iconic Mazowe Dam — almost a century after it was built — and surrounding tracts of land.
The move has escalated her bitter fights with local villagers who are now barred from using the huge dam which she has privatised.
Grace’s Mazowe empire already includes an opulent double-storey mansion on Mapfeni Farm, which can be seen from Manzou Farm from, where she has been evicting thousands of villagers since 2011 to establish a game park.
There is also a dairy farm, orphanage and a school. She is planning to build a university. Grace has also grabbed land which belonged to the former Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed agro-producer Interfresh’s Mazowe Citrus Estate.
The Mugabe family reportedly has more than 10 farms, becoming part of the new land aristocracy ushered in by government’s chaotic land reform programme which began in 2000.
Mazowe Dam, the country’s 16th largest reservoir, has a capacity of 39,35 million cubic metres of water and was 99,9% full as of June 12, according to Zinwa.
Grace’s latest move has infuriated villagers, some of whom earned a living through fishing and other activities around there.