Manzou Estate, which is also known as Manzou Farm, is made up a number of small scale farms Spenenken, Celtic and Arnold farms. It is located in the so called citrus region of Mazowe in Mashonaland Central Province in Zimbabwe. The farm/estate came to public's knowledge in early January in 2015 when it was invaded by the state amid widespread speculation that the first lady and ZANU PF Women's League Secretary Grace Mugabe wanted to use the estate for her wildlife conservancy.
In July 2006, Manzou Estate was in the media after property worth millions of Zimbabwean dollars was destroyed by fire. The fire caused extensive damage to pastures, guest lodges, chalets and other goods including a diesel generator. Wildlife in the area was also said to have been seriously affected by the inferno although the actual extent could not be ascertained. Manzou Game Park at one point in time was also at the centre of a crisis when it registered an anthrax outbreak which is said to have affected the animals.
Manzou estate was initially owned by a white commercial farmer until around 2000 when the land reform program began. The farm was divided to form small villages where the now displaced villagers had settled. The villagers are said to have been first issued with written and verbal notices which gave them an ultimatum to vacate the farm since it was reserve for a wildlife conservative.
It was believed that the first lady,Grace Mugabe had courted some Chinese companies to come and invest in the presumably profitable venture. As reported in the local media, the villagers were being ordered out of Spenenken and Arnold farms, which form Manzou Estate. Some of the villagers claimed that First Lady Grace wanted to set up a game park, apart from mining gold that was abundant in the estate.
The villagers speculated that the wildlife conservative was for Grace Mugabe who had previously expressed her interests in the area, extending her boundaries from her Grace Mugabe Foundation which houses a school and an orphanage in the same area of Mazowe. What made these assertions true was the presence of heavily armed personnel from the Zimbabwe Republic Police who came and burnt down houses belonging to the indigenous small scale farmers at the Manzou Estate. In the first phase of the displacements, about two hundred households where destroyed and their owners left with nowhere to go at the height of a relentless rain season.
Barely 24 hours after the expulsion of more than 200 families from Manzou estate. Authorities are said to have issued warnings to about 600 more families concentrated around Celtic Farm in the same area. Villagers claimed that they had been given notices to vacate the area for the expansion of Manzou Game Park. Grace Mugabe was believed to be operating a gold mine in the area under the disguise of a senior police officer only identified as Munyoro.
Earlier in March 2014, authorities are said to have expelled 700 villagers from the same farm allegedly at the instigation of the first family who are believed to have strong economic interests in the area. The villagers are said to have been relocated to areas such as Mt Darwin and Concession. However, a High Court order instructed the authorities to return the land back to their villagers and this resulted in them returning back.
Grace Mugabe is said to have publicly expressed her interests in the area when she highlighted her plans to build a secondary school, hospital and the Robert Mugabe University in the same area where the first family also own a dairy farm and other commercial ventures. Whilst the estate was acquired for resettlement by the government during the controversial Third Chimurenga, Manzou Farm is reportedly a game park and was declared a national heritage site by the department of National Museum and Monuments of Zimbabwe years ago.
High Court Intervention
On Monday 12 January 20115, the High Court issued a provisional order in favour of the 2 00 families. The court order barred the state from displacing the villagers and this raised questions on the motive behind the initial displacements. The villagers, in their heads of arguments contained in their urgent chamber application, cited Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi, Land and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora and Police Commissioner–General, Augustine Chihuri as the respondents.
Despite this however, Grace Mugabe was triumphant. The farm is now a game park and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) was mandated to control and manage the farm on behalf of the First Lady. Despite this however, the Chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) argued that, Manzou was not fit for be a sanctuary of wildlife especially for the 'Big Five' game. The Chairman of the ZCTF's argument was that, Mazowe is an area which is fit and suitable for agriculture, thus bringing animals to Manzou will later cause havoc as these animals will end up breaking into farms. He also highlighted that such animals will in the long run kill to people.
Wildlife Conservancy Saga
After rumours began to circulate that Grace Mugabe had managed to manipulate state machinery to use Manzou estate for a wildlife conservancy, some authorities are said to have opposed the move. The daily news reported that Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) indicated that the area was not suitable to house the "big five" animals which include the elephants, rhinos and lions. Johnny Rodriguez, chairman of ZCTF, told the Daily News yesterday that Manzou Farm should not be turned into a game park as the “Big Five” game — comprising lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros species — will pose problems to villagers.
This followed indications that the personnel from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority were seen erecting a fence in the area and this served to confirm the rumours that there were plans to bring wildlife in an area which is used for crop production by small scale farmers who benefited from the Third Chimurenga land reform.
A few days later, villagers in the area confirmed that wildlife had already been brought in the area. Reports confirmed that about a hundred zebras were already in the area. Villagers complained that the animals were causing havok as they could spend the night foraging in the farms where the maize plant was in its maturing stage. Some speculated that the bringing in of wild life into the area was meant to agitate the farmers to move away from the area.
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