By Prince Tongogara
Grace Mugabe, the new power behind the throne in Zanu (PF), less than two months after becoming the Women’s League boss, has shown her capitalistic traits when she ordered the eviction of over 800 families from two Mazowe farms as she creates her fiefdom – Gracelands – in the heartland of Zimbabwe’s farming capital.
The takeover of the two farms, Manzou and Celtic, has been long in coming and was a topic that cropped up more often than not during Grace’s whirlwind national campaign disguised as ‘Thank You Rallies’.
She portrayed herself as a motherly figure who cared about women and children, anti-corruption and anti-factionalism in the party.
However, Grace in flashes of unguarded moments snarled and thrashed her perceived enemies especially on alleged conspiracies to take over her sprawling land holding after the departure of her feared husband, Mugabe, from power.
She attacked Mazowe West legislator and former Justice deputy minister Fortune Chasi and former vice-president Joice Mujuru for threatening her interests.
It has now come to the fore that her interests were dispossessing the poor and vulnerable families settled close to her children’s home and Gushungo dairy project. Last year her attempts to evict resettled farmers were foiled by Chasi who intervened by having Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) represent the farmers in a court petition challenging their removal.
However, with her ascendancy on the political scene and annihilation of Mujuru, Chasi and several other senior Zanu (PF) officials at the congress Grace is now comfortable to implement her long held ambition of creating a fiefdom in Mazowe.
It is shocking that government officials in Mashonaland Central are abetting Grace to breach government policies on land ownership. The government in its policy says land should be redistributed using the one man one farm policy but to date Grace and Mugabe now have around 12 farms totaling some 16 000h according to BBC Hard Talk. Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa could not respond to the charge that Mugabe had 16 000 ha but feebly said he did not know.
The hapless farmers in Mazowe are not the first to fall to her insatiable appetite to amass land from the state. Supreme Court judge Ben Hlatshwayo was the first when he had his Gwina farm in Banket taken away. Next was former Standard Chartered Bank chief executive Washington Matsaire who lost his Nyanga farm to the First family, Interfresh who lost part of its Citrus plantation and several resettled farmers who were evicted to create more room for Grace’s projects.
Grace’s projects among others include her ambitious game sanctuary on Manzou where now 800 farmers have been evicted in the middle of the summer and their homes destroyed. Animals for their economic value to the zoo project have become more important than the citizens in Grace’s frame of mind.
One thing remains clear in all this Grace unraveling flexing of power, President Mugabe is fast losing control both at home and state to his young wife. It has now become apparent that what Grace wants Mugabe grants. This is despite his public posturing that leadership is about serving the people not self-aggrandisement.
For now with little public outcry and organized challenge to Grace’s action in Mazowe, the First lady may be encouraged to do more. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai only on Thursday said, “Grace must be called to order.”
It remains to be seen who will call her to order as she is slowly emerging as the power behind the throne.