Houses Burnt Down At Manzou Estate

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 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 property 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. [1] 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.[2]

Expulsions

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.[3] It was believed that the first lady 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.

Image shows victims houses in smoke after they were burnt down

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.[3] In he 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 he 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.[4] 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.[3] 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. [3] 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.[5] 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.[6] He also highlighted that such animals will in the long run kill to people.

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.[5] 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.[5]

References

  1. , Veld fires: winners and the losers,The Zimbabwean Situation, retrieved:14 Jan 2015"
  2. , Zimbabwe Anthrax Outbreak,,retrieved:14 Jan 2015"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 , Villagers in Mazowe evicted to pave way for Grace Mugabe wildlife park,publisher, published:8 Jan 2015,retrieved:14 Jan 2015"
  4. , BREAKING NEWS: Grace Mugabe Targets 600 More Families,ZimEye, published:9 Jan 2015,retrieved:14 Jan 2015"
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 , Relief for Manzou villagers,The Zimbabwe Mail, published:13 Jan 2015,retrieved:14 Jan 2015"
  6. Lloyd Mbiba and Bridget Mananavire, 'Manzou Farm not fit for 'Big Five' game', Daily News, published:21 Jan 2015,retrieved:23 January 2015"