By Tererai Karimakwenda
18 January 2013
The company that owns Zimbabwe’s well-known Mazoe Citrus Estate has warned of a possible 30% loss of revenue, following the recent takeover of a large portion of their property by Grace Mugabe, who reportedly wants to expand her orphanage nearby.
Robert Mugabe’s wife is said to have recently taken control of at least 1,600 hectares of land on the Mazoe Estate, which is owned by agro-producer Interfresh.
According to NewsDay newspaper, the acquisition came just weeks after the Governor of Mashonaland Central, Martin Dinha, promised Grace more land for her school and orphanage.
Dinha was reportedly speaking at the official opening of the Amai Mugabe Junior School in Mazowe earlier this month, where he said Grace’s school and orphanage “had given the province a facelift”, Newsday said.
Dinha had also toured the orphanage in October last year, when he said papers were being prepared to extend the orphanage because Grace needed more land for her projects. The governor has been instrumental in facilitating the land acquisitions for Grace.
A worker at the farm who confirmed the development, told Newsday: “Nothing is happening here at the moment. The offices which were on this side (citrus estate) have been moved to the other side (at the orphanage) and this happened after it was taken over by the First Lady, so we are not sure of the way forward now.”
Charles Taffs, President of the Commercial Farmers’ Union of Zimbabwe (CFU), said this takeover of land by government officials is nothing new, but has unfortunately continued at a time when the country should be building investor confidence.
“We cannot continue along this line and until our leaders understand this and do something about it will destroy us. We need to correct this and attract investment and create employment. No-one is going to invest in agriculture while all of this is still going on,” Taffs told SW Radio Africa.
Regarding the land grab by the first lady, Taffs said: “In terms of that family it’s well documented the land they have and what’s happening on those farms. Why is it that they continue along this path. It makes no sense.”
Taffs then referred to recent comments made by the Minister of Agriculture, promising that no foreign-owned properties protected by BIPPAs would be acquired under land reform for now.
“This is not happening on the ground and we are seeing conflicting signals coming from government all the time. This is adding to this mess of investor instability and lack of confidence,” Taffs stressed.
Apart from destroying investor confidence the land grabs have been responsible for the fact that this year at least 1.7 million Zimbabweans will go hungry, as not enough food is grown to feed the nation.