Grace denies taking over dam used by Zim’s poor
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.