Grace Mugabe addressing a political rally in Harare in October 2014Image: J. Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images
Grace Mugabe in land eviction row
Columbus Mavhunga in Harare (dpa) / mc
January 9, 2015
Never shy of courting controversy, Zimbabwe's first lady, Grace Mugabe, is being linked to the eviction of families from a farm - without any offer of alternative accommodation - in the middle of the rainy season.
Heavily armed police officers have evicted more than 200 families from a farm in eastern Zimbabwe to create space for a game park proposed by first lady Grace Mugabe.
Police officers and members of Zimbabwe's secret service turned up at Anold Farm in Mazowe district, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of the capital Harare, on Tuesday (06.01.2014) forcing the residents to leave without notice.
One farmer, who asked not to be identified, told DW "when the police came to destroy our homes, they said the evictions were being done to make way for Grace Mugabe."
He said they were desperate. "We are looking for plastic to make makeshift homes because it is raining. We are leaving our plants in the fields, we don't know how we shall survive because we depend on our crops."
Another farmer, Aspinas Makufa, told the dpa news agency that "they ordered us to leave, but the government did not provide us with alternative land. We have nowhere to go and all our belongings will be damaged as the rains keep pounding."
Contempt of court
Non-profit organization Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said it had dispatched a team of legal practitioners to Mazowe to help stop the "illegal evictions."
"We got a High Court order last year that bars anyone from evicting the affected families from their land without offering them alternative pieces of land," said one of the group's litigation officers, David Hofisi.
"These evictions are a violation of the court order and we will be filing for contempt of court against the police," Hofisi added.
Another lawyer with the same rights group, Tonderai Bhatasar, told DW that in filing for contempt of court they would be citing "the minister of home affairs, the police commissioner general and the minister of lands." He added that if they were found to be in contempt of court "we will seek to have them arrested."
Former prime minister and leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party Morgan Tsvangirai took the opportunity to launch a blistering attack on Zimbabwe's ruling party.
"Zanu PF has survived on chaos and impunity. This is a typical testimony at this hour when the rains are pouring and you start instituting those kind of measures. How do you feel towards those poor families you are replacing? And the irony is that you are putting in animals instead of people. I think the time has come to call Grace to order," he said.
Grace Mugabe, who married President Robert Mugabe in 1996, reportedly seized several farms in the past decade, although, under the land reforms act, an individual is not allowed to own more than one.
In recent months, the first lady has been playing a more vocal, some would say influential, role in Zimbabwean politics.
President Mugabe launched a wave of farm seizures from the year 2000 to resettle black farmers on land previously owned by whites. He claims the measure was intended to correct colonial imbalances, but critics have blamed the land grabs for the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy.