Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe has not invaded Manzou Farm in Upper Mazowe Valley as claimed by sections of the private media, and such insinuations reflect a sinister agenda to tarnish the name of the First Family, Government has said.
Further, at no point has the family monopolised water abstraction from Mazowe Dam as alleged in some phoney media outlets.
The private media has embarked on a sustained onslaught against the First Family, particularly the First Lady, accusing her of taking over Manzou Farm and Mazowe Dam.
Most of the stories stem from a report compiled by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission on alleged complaints by the so-called Arnold and Valeria Farms residents.
Verified information by The Herald from various Government departments and provincial authorities in Mashonaland Central Province shows that Manzou Farm was declared a national heritage site in terms of the National Museums and Monuments Act and as such no one should be resettled on it.
With regards to Mazowe Dam, it emerged that it is jointly owned by Mazowe Citrus (60 percent) and the Government of Zimbabwe (40 percent).
The First Family, as farmers in Mazowe, is among a host of other farmers drawing water from the dam.
Other farms that access water from the same dam are Laurancedale Farm (where there are four farmers) Georgia West Plot, Cornucopia Farm, Hamilton Farm and Mazowe Citrus.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Herald, Minister of State for Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs Advocate Martin said the First Family had become victims of a negative media campaign sponsored by the country’s enemies.
He explained that the provincial lands committee of Mashonaland Central in fact invited the First Family to develop Manzou Farm after noting exceptional developments they were undertaking at their children’s home and dairy farm in Mazowe.
Adv Dinha also explained the legal status of the farm in question.
“My office took interest of the report from the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission after the negative and inflammatory reportage in the opposition press abusing this report to vilify the First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe,” he said.
“I must point out that while I disagree with some of the findings of the report, at no point does it direct or order the First Family to do anything. In fact, the report has various recommendations to State actors and Government which we will take note of and implement. It is mischievous and misdirected for the opposition press and anyone for that matter, to unjustly peddle falsehoods and make unfounded allegations against the First Family and in particular Amai Dr Grace Mugabe and His Excellency the President,” Adv Dinha said.
“I want to place it on record as I have done before that Manzou Game Reserve is a designated Parks and Wildlife area. It was so before and after the land reform programme. In addition, Manzou and surrounding areas constitute the gazetted Nehanda National Monument which is as important and symbolic as the Great Zimbabwe Monument.”
He continued: “Critically, Manzou Game Conservancy and the surrounding farms are protected areas and should not be subjected to any settlement. Anyone who occupied or resettled in Manzou did so illegally. The State cannot promote or allow squatters or legalise illegal settlements. As provincial authorities, we have a duty to protect the environment and our heritage such as the sacred land of Gomba and Manzou where Mbuya Nehanda lived.
“She is our legendary heroine and symbol of our resistance to colonialism. The place around Manzou is sacred and allowing destruction of sacred sites such as Shavarunzi and Baradzanwa would be the highest level of irresponsibility in me as the Minister of State responsible for Mashonaland Central and the Government of Zimbabwe,” he said.
“The First Lady has done a lot for us in Mashonaland Central and Zimbabwe in general – building schools and looking after orphans at Mazowe Children’s Home and some poor minds want to find fault everywhere. We appreciate her good work and it is us as the province that have approached her to invest in critical areas for the good of our province and Zimbabwe. We will stand by our First Lady and the First Family as some of you seek to please your handlers and attract donor funding.”
National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe national director Dr Godfery Mahachi also confirmed that Manzou was a protected area as it was declared a national heritage site.
“The whole idea of national monuments is to preserve the landscape and obviously the reason to give monument status is to effectively protect the values of the cultural landscape identified,” he said.
“One of the challenges we have in protecting these values is human interference where sacred areas are destroyed, where people cut down vegetation and where various activities by people settled in the areas negatively affect the sacredness of the cultural landscape. For that reason, we try to make sure that human activity in gazetted areas is minimal. That requirement equally applies to Upper Mazowe Valley which covers the monument. The National Museums and Monuments is one of the stakeholders in that area and we are trying to protect the area. Other departments such as the Environmental Management Agency who have been alarmed by the amount of damage taking place in the area are also there. The First Family or no First Family, we don’t see it in that light but we are duty bound to protect the Upper Mazowe.”
Commenting on Mazowe Dam issue, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) public relations manager Mrs Marjorie Munyonga said: “Mazowe Dam is owned by Mazowe Citrus and the Government of Zimbabwe. Mazowe Citrus owns 60 percent of the available water in the dam with the Government owning the remainder. Zinwa allocates the 40 percent to any person wishing to irrigate using Mazowe Dam and the allocations are only made to people who would have entered into a water abstraction agreement with Zinwa as required by law.”
The First Family, like any other farmer in the area, benefits from Mazowe Dam.
“A number of other farmers have entered into water abstraction agreements with Zinwa in respect of irrigation water from Mazowe Dam,” said Mrs Munyonga.
Mrs Munyonga said the authority was not aware of any harassment of people taking place at or around Mazowe Dam and no individual or organisation had approached them complaining about the harassment or denial of access to the dam.
Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management spokeman Mr Tinashe Farawo said they were issuing fishing permits to those interested in doing that business in Mazowe Dam as long as they met the set requirements.