The Zimbabwe Human Right Commission (ZHRC) says it has launched investigations into the alleged gross human rights abuse accusations leveled against First Lady Grace Mugabe following the recent forced eviction of 15 villagers at Manzou Farm in Mazowe to pave way for her proposed wildlife conservancy.
This comes amid reports that Grace is embroiled in a nasty mine ownership wrangle with an indigenous miner in the same area.
ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi confirmed yesterday that the statutory human rights body had deployed a team of investigators following reports that the affected families had their homes burnt while they were dumped in the bush in Mvurwi following their eviction last week.
“We had a visit from a group of affected individuals last week on Friday and on the same day, we despatched a team to the farm to investigate,” he said.
“Our team could, however, not make headway because they failed to meet with the leadership in the province.
“Our aim is to meet with (Mashonaland Central) Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha, the chief lands officer and officer-in-charge Mazowe Police Station for us to understand what is going on.”
Mugwadi said ZHRC investigators went back to the farm yesterday to continue with the investigations.
“As we speak, our team is in Mazowe on the same mission and at least by tomorrow (today), we should be able to say with certainty what is going on,” the ZHRC chairperson said.
Mugwadi confirmed sources’ reports that one of the villagers was left with a gouged eye.
“It is true. I was briefed on the issue of a man who was attacked along with his wife and child,” he said.
“Our team was also not able to meet with the victims. But we have impressed upon them to make every effort to locate the family and interview them. I have been informed that the family was also referred to a private hospital in town, but we still need finer details of the case.”
The forced removals left hundreds of schoolchildren stranded, including some in examination classes, who had already registered for this year’s examinations.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association has also condemned the continued harassment of families in the area despite a standing High Court order stopping the displacements.
Sources told NewsDay, the First Lady had also clashed with an indigenous miner, Pius Madzimure, over ownership of a gold claim known as Elliot 90A in Mazowe district.
“The police have arrested my workers to stop operations at my mine Elliot 90A,” he said in a WhatsApp message seen by NewsDay.
He claimed that Grace’s companies, Bona Idah P/L and Confidence Mining P/L were interested in the mine.
“The order is from an Inspector Kalosi, a security officer at the First Lady’s orphanage. They are saying my workers and relatives should not stay at my registered mine.”
Provincial mines director Forbes Mugumbate yesterday confirmed Madzimure as the rightful owner of the gold claim.
“Our only role is to confirm ownership of the mining claim and we have done that. Indeed, Madzimure is the owner. All other things, I do not think I am qualified to comment on,” he said.
While Madzimure was not available for comment with his mobile phone unreachable, his younger brother, Ronnie, confirmed the conversations, but could not be drawn into a discussion on the fight.
“Those facts are correct, but I am not at liberty to say much at the moment. I would need to talk to him (Madzimure) first,” he said yesterday, adding he had a recording of a meeting with Mugumbate.
Kalosi would neither deny nor confirm the allegations when contacted for comment.
“The people who are giving you that information must tell the truth of what really is going on and the extent to which I am involved. That person must tell you exactly what is happening, I cannot say much,” he said.
Madzimure reportedly wrote to Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri last year seeking help over the matter, but with no luck.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba had promised to check on details of the issue, but had not responded at the time of going to print last night.
Elliot Mine is situated at Surtic Farm, formerly owned by German miners.
Madzimure last week claimed two of his workers, Brian Chikopa and Vengai Nyamupingidza, were detained at Mazowe Police Station.
“[The] First Family is using Kalosi to torture and harass us with help from the police Support Unit from Harare. Our problems started when there was a gold rush in October 2015, so they came and claimed it was their mine,” he claimed.
“They (Mugabes), however, failed to produce papers, which I did.
“Later, they produced an SG Number 6045 in Bindura through the ministry under Confidence Mining trading as Gushungo, thinking they would override my papers, but the ministry, through Mugumbate, clearly indicated to them that existing claims are not affected. I registered my claim in March 2012 under registration number 42170.”