Mugabe seizes third farm for himself

Despite his numerous exhortations for cronies to surrender extra farms, President Robert Mugabe has completed the seizure of three for himself and is now a major multiple farm owner in Zimbabwe.

But it's not only the seizure of the three prime estates totalling more than 6 000 hectares that has incensed Zimbabweans. It is the open abuse of government resources and staff to work on these farms.

Mugabe and his young wife, Grace, are the proud owners of Highfield Estate in Norton, 45km west of Harare. Access roads have been built using staff and resources from the District Development Fund.

The Mugabes are also the owners of the plush Iron Mask Estate in Mazowe, about 40km from Harare.

The first family took occupation after evicting John and Eva Mathews, the elderly couple who owned it and who have since left Zimbabwe to live in South Africa. Grace Mugabe personally oversaw the eviction of the Mathewses (in their late 70s) after she visited the farm accompanied by state security agents and ordered them to leave.

The Mugabes have also completed the seizure of Foyle Farm in Mazowe, formerly owned by Ian Webster and adjacent to Iron Mask Farm, and renamed it Gushungo Farm after Mugabe's own clan name.

Zimbabwe's private media exposed how agricultural experts from the state owned Agricultural Development Authority (ARDA) were being used to work on Mugabe's farms without paying the state. ARDA's resources were also being used for Mugabe's private work.

Not only ARDA experts were spending time working on Mugabe's farms, but Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, who has overseen the destruction of Zimbabwe's once mighty agricultural sector, was visiting the farms to supervise ARDA workers.

The Standard newspaper speculated that this could be because Made, who has been criticised by Mugabe before for repeatedly lying that the country had enough grain stocks, was facing the chop and he was thus desperate to impress Mugabe and keep his job after a rumoured cabinet reshuffle. - Independent Foreign Service

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