More than 15 families had their homes destroyed by armed police officers at Manzou in Mazowe yesterday, as First Lady Grace Mugabe intensifies her bid to grab Arnold Farm.
At least 16 officers reportedly stormed the farm and burnt down houses, while a family was allegedly arrested after watching its home razed down. Villagers at the farm told NewsDay that they received threats for refusing to vacate to pave way for Grace who is reportedly planning to set up a conservancy.
“After burning our homes, they promised to return at night saying if we don’t leave this area they will deal with us,” said one Japhet Madodo who has been living at the farm since 2000.
Madodo said yesterday the police came as early as 7 am and started to harass the villagers accusing them of being stubborn. The villagers have been fighting for the area since 2012 when the First Family — which reportedly possesses several farms — got interested in the area.
The area is surrounded by gold claims and fertile soils good for agriculture.Since 2012, the First Lady has launched a spirited fight to evict over 200 families. “We came here in 2000 and from there onwards we have been staying peacefully until the First Lady expressed interest in 2012. From then onwards our lives have never been the same again. We are always harassed and we have lost our livelihoods and are living like paupers now. We don’t know why we are treated like this in a free Zimbabwe,” Titus Chirembo said.
Others said they were sleeping in the open and feared that their children might be affected by the adverse weather as they are sleeping in the open. Some villagers said they were living in fear after they tried to resist eviction.
In some instances some families were going without food while school-going children were forced to drop out of school even before they closed.
On two occasions, the High Court has come to their rescue. Two High Court orders obtained by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights barring the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri from demolishing or evicting the villagers have all failed to help.
The authorities have issued an ultimatum against the villagers to move out of Arnold Farm by the end of the day.