By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
18 March 2014
Hundreds of people in the Mazowe district of Mashonaland Central have been left homeless after police evicted them from the Spelenken Farm this weekend, to make way for an unnamed beneficiary.
According to the Standard newspaper, police arrived at the farm as early as 4am on Saturday and by 2pm had loaded up the farm settlers onto police lorries and driven them to unknown destinations.
“Although the identity of the new owner who is set to take over the farm could not be ascertained, it was evident that it was a very important person considering the heavy presence of police and intelligence officers,” the Standard reported.
The farm is not far from where First Lady Grace Mugabe has been busy extending her land claims; land she says is being used to extend an orphanage she started in recent years. She has also planned to build a school on the seized tracts of land.
Minister of State for Mashonaland Central, Martin Dinha, last year promised to allocate more land to the First Lady in the area to expand her projects.
“The land is no longer sufficient to sustain the projects the First Lady has on her sleeves. We are working on the papers to stretch the land so that she can have more land to do her projects. Some people might say ‘The First Lady is greedy, why does she want more land?’, but we are saying it is justified for her to have more land,” Dinha said.
Last October Grace evicted a group of small-scale miners from a piece of land that forms part of Manzou Game Park also in Mazowe. Gushungo holdings, a business empire controlled by the first lady, kicked out 11 small-scale miners operating on 22 hectares of land along the Mazowe river. SW Radio Africa understands that the area is rich in gold deposits.
Then in January this year Grace grabbed more land belonging to Interfresh’s Mazoe Citrus Estate, seizing a further 800 hectares in addition to the 1,600 hectares she grabbed last year from Interfresh, on the pretext that she was expanding her orphanage. Interfresh has since stated that it’s operations have been left under threat by the continued seizure of its land, actions which have resulted in the breakdown of negotiations with its financial partners.
The Mugabe family holds the most land in Zimbabwe, which has still not recovered from the land grab campaign that saw profitable commercial land being seized, often violently, in the name of ‘reform’. The best, most profitable farms were handed, to top ZANU PF officials and cronies. But the majority of these farms have been left unutilised and for over a decade Zimbabwe has relied on food aid to supports millions of hungry people. The land seizures have also continued this year, over a decade since the campaign began.
Economist John Robertson told SW Radio Africa that until property rights are protected in Zimbabwe, there will never be any economic recovery.
“The long term investments of any country depend on property rights. It gives them the confidence to make big expenditure commitments, and when they don’t have that confidence, development stops,” Robertson said.
He said this was evident in Zimbabwe, where investor confidence is very low and little to no local production of exportable goods is taking place.
“This is what we’ve seen in recent years here. We’ve gone backwards, and it’s because of the damage done to property rights,” Robertson said.