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Court orders payment to people evicted by Grace Mugabe

March 2, 2018

A Zimbabwean court has ordered the government and head of police to pay more than $30,000 in reparations to people whose homesteads were demolished to make way for Grace Mugabe's farm and game park.

Grace Mugabe
Image: Getty Images/Z.Auntony

"Gracelands" was the name Zimbabweans gave to the land that Zimbabwe's former first lady, Grace Mugabe, claimed and cleared.

Manzou in Mazowe lies approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the capital, Harare. In 2015, subsistence farmers in the area were evicted from their homesteads and their houses were demolished to make way for Grace Mugabe's development plans for the area. She took over Mazowe dam and seized land for her personal farm and game park.  

This week, however, a court in the southern African country ordered the government and the head of police, who were involved in the forced evictions, to pay more than $30,000 (€24,000) as reparations to some of the farmers. The organization Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, which represented the farmers, said that the ruling could set a precedent.

"We hope that by the end of March this year all judgements will be delivered and we expect the cited authorities to pay the damages as indicated by the court," said Kumbirai Mafunda from the rights group. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights' motivation in taking up this case was to challenge impunity so that other actors are deterred from attempting such injustices."

New hope for the residents

At Manzou farm, the residents are more cautious about the victory in court. They welcomed the judgment but the damage, they say, has already been done.

"We are living in misery as you can see. We are living in plastic shacks," says 59-year-old widow Chenai Mucherehwa. She moved back to the area and lives here with her six grandchildren. "If it is raining, we have to stand in one corner as our blankets get wet. We fear for our health, we need urgent assistance. The kids have now become prone to flu and colds. Mosquitoes feast on us," she explains. 

"Now that the courts have ordered that we are compensated, I can now rebuild. I had nowhere to start from after my husband died three years ago," she adds. 

Her neighbor, 43-year-old Takaitei Chigayo, told DW how she views the new developments in Zimbabwe. She does not blame Zimbabwe's former president Robert Mugabe. She does, however, blame his wife. 

"That first lady is the one who was causing havoc here. She wanted this place. When police came they were clear that they had been sent by her," she says. "Clearly it was not a legal eviction, otherwise the government would have used proper channels to evict us. It was her who wanted this place and there was nothing we could do."

During her days as first lady, Grace Mugabe challenged anyone in public including the then deputy president Emmerson Mnangagwawhom she referred to as "an employee" of her husband. Now it seems that the tables have turned.

On Monday, March 5, Levi Nyagura, Vice Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe is expected in court to answer allegations of awarding a PhD degree to the former first lady, Grace.

Reclaiming the land