Grace de­nies tak­ing over dam used by Zim’s poor

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - PETA THORNYCROFT

HARARE: Zim­babwe’s first lady Grace Mu­gabe de­nies she has taken over one of Zim­babwe’s best known, and most beau­ti­ful dams 30km west of Harare.

Pri­vately-owned Zim­babwe news­pa­per The In­de­pen­dent re­ported last week that poor fish­er­men and oth­ers who reg­u­larly use the iconic Ma­zowe Dam, built in 1918, had been con­sis­tently chased away by po­lice in pre­vi­ous weeks.

The dam is close to Grace Mu­gabe’s vast agri­cul­tural es­tate which is mostly built on land taken from white farm­ers from 2003. Oth­ers who vis­ited the dam last week said it was “de­serted “and that they no­ticed po­lice nearby even at week­ends. But pro­vin­cial min­is­ter, Martin Dinha, in a state­ment to state-con­trolled daily The Her­ald this week, said the dam was a na­tional mon­u­ment and any­one with a per­mit from the Zim­babwe Na­tional Wa­ter Author­ity could use it.

He said the re­port pub- lished last week was “false and de­picts the level of jour­nal­ism of so-called in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ists, who are in fact op­po­si­tion mouth­pieces” in­spired by “Western” in­ter­ests”. There was “no at­tempt, let alone any deed or act the first lady has done… Ma­zowe Dam re­mains a pub­lic dam”.

A sail­ing club which holds func­tions on Ma­zowe Dam said it had not had any prob­lems there so far, “And we are hope­ful that will con­tinue”.

There is usu­ally no way for Zim­babwe’s non-gov­ern­ment jour­nal­ists or for­eign me­dia to se­cure re­sponse from the gov­ern­ment, es­pe­cially from the first fam­ily. Most cab­i­net min­is­ters, par­tic­u­larly since the end of the in­clu­sive gov­ern­ment in 2013, also refuse to re­spond to ques­tions from non-gov­ern­ment me­dia.

Ear­lier this year po­lice, some­times work­ing at night, knocked down many make-shift houses built by scores of poor fam­i­lies on land in the Ma­zowe district once owned by Zim­babwe com­pany, In­ter­fresh.

This com­pany, es­tab­lished more then 50 years ago, used to pro­duce sub­stan­tial cit­rus. Grace Mu­gabe took over its land in the last few years.

One sec­tion of land she took was pre­vi­ously used as a wildlife con­ser­vancy and the gov­ern­ment said it in­tended to re­stock it some time in the fu­ture.

While Grace Mu­gabe usu­ally takes over white-owned farm land with­out pay­ing for it, she did spend about R60m on a swathe of valu­able res­i­den­tial land about 15km north of Harare which she bought late last year from a white man, Jan Teede.

Although Zim­babwe is des­per­ately short of for­eign cash, the money for this prop­erty was paid out into a for­eign bank ac­count.

GRACE MU­GABE

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