ZIMBABWE – First Lady Grace Mugabe has taken over part of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed agro producer Interfresh’s Mazoe Citrus Estate to expand her orphanage located close to the estate.
The development would further confirm the First Family’s status as multiple farm owners, contrary to the country’s land redistribution laws.
Investigations by NewsDay this week revealed that Grace recently took over control of about 1 600 hectares of land which was part of Mazoe Citrus Estate.
According to sources, Mashonaland Central governor Martin Dinha was instrumental in the designation of the land and the parcelling of it to the First Lady.
Dinha chairs the provincial lands committee. The Resident minister yesterday declined to comment on the matter, referring NewsDay to Lands minister Herbert Murerwa, who is on leave.
When schools opened earlier this month, Dinha promised to provide more land to the First Lady during the official opening of the Amai Mugabe Junior School in Mazowe, saying the school and the orphanage had given the province a facelift.
Dinha had earlier made the same promise during a tour of the orphanage in October last year. He said as the provincial leadership, they were already working on papers to have the land extended.
“The land is no longer sufficient to sustain the projects the First Lady has on her sleeves,” Dinha said.
“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.”
Workers and villagers who spoke to NewsDay on condition of anonymity yesterday confirmed the development. Most of the workers, previously employed by Interfresh, confirmed they were now working for the First Lady.
“I had worked for Interfresh for a long time . . . and all we hear now is it has been taken over by the First Family, but we are still staying this side,” said one worker.
Another worker confirmed the development, but said things were still uncertain at the farm.
“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.”
A villager from across the farm weighed in: “I am really not sure of what is happening, but we know that the side called Smith Field has been taken over by Grace Mugabe.”
The First Lady’s spokesperson, Lawrence Kamwi, referred all questions to Presidential spokesperson George Charamba.
“Why don’t you call the Presidential spokesperson? He is the best person to talk to,” he said. Charamba, however, said he was abroad and could not comment on the issue. “I am out of the country at the moment, so I will not be of much help from this far end,” said Charamba.
In a statement on Tuesday, Interfresh confirmed losing land in Mazowe, saying the Lands ministry had designated the property.
“Shareholders are advised that the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement has advised the company that a portion measuring 1 599,7 hectares, which was part of Mazoe Citrus Estate, has been allocated to another party,” said company secretary Tawanda Namusi.
In their statement, Interfresh said the portion allocated represented 46% of Mazoe Citrus Estate’s total arable land, 30% of its budgeted revenue for the financial year 2013 and 52% of the value of immovable and biological assets.
They have since lodged an appeal with the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement. – News Day