“Dr Grace is a strong and courageous politician who is not afraid to engage her political opponents on any matter,” ZANU-PF said in a statement likely prompted by local and international outrage over claims she has ordered families off Manzou Estate so she can set up a multi-million game park there.
“We view this relentless onslaught on the good name of Dr Mugabe as politically-motivated and call upon all those who are behind this sordid campaign to stop it forthwith.”
Grace Mugabe, 49, is not in Zimbabwe at the moment.
More than 150 families were reportedly evicted this week and some of their homes destroyed on the estate, which lies in the fertile Mazowe district about half an hour’s drive from the capital Harare.
The First Lady, who took over as head of ZANU-PF’s powerful women’s league last month, in a move seen by analysts as the likely first step on her road to political power in Zimbabwe, already runs an orphanage and a thriving dairy on a seized white farm near Manzou. She has set up a school and has disclosed plans to set up a university.
A senior ZANU-PF official this week disputed the number of families affected by the evictions, claiming it is 48 families. Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs Minister Martin Dinha said Manzou Estate was actually a national heritage site and had been a game park in the past.
Reports in the private Standard newspaper said police on Saturday set fire to more huts on Manzou. Lawyers say the authorities are acting in contempt of a court order issued last year obliging the government to allocate the villagers land to build on before evicting them.