Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace seizes Zimbabwe farm

grace_mugabe_2.jpgPresident Robert Mugabe's wife Grace has seized a farm from a high court judge, according to legal and agricultural sources.

Mrs Mugabe, who at 43 is more than four decades younger than her husband, already has a string of properties across the country, taken after Mr Mugabe’s loyalists began evicting white farmers in 2000. Her latest acquisition – said to be for a son, Russell Goreraza, from her first

marriage – comes as Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party prepares to form a coalition with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change next week. It demonstrates that the ruling hierarchy have yet to change their behaviour, and are even turning on their own supporters to satiate their greed.

Gwina, about 50 miles north of Harare and close to Mr Mugabe’s rural home, was once a prize-winning farm until Judge Ben Hlatshwayo, who presides in the High Court in Harare, forced off its owner, Vernon Nicol. Mr Nicol – who is now in Australia, along with most members of his large family, who also lost their farms – won a court order to prevent Mr Hlatshwayo seizing the premises in 2002, but the judge ignored it and broke into the homestead.

Now he has received similar treatment, and is said to be "absolutely furious".

According to farming sources the judge was an exception among the Zanu-PF elite who helped themselves to farms, employing a qualified manager, growing decent crops, and even spending some time living on the farm.

By contrast at least 90 per cent of formerly white-owned farms – more than 20 million acres – lie fallow since Mr Mugabe began chasing whites off their rural properties, while agricultural exports, which once earned 40 per cent of Zimbabwe’s foreign exchange, have collapsed, and more than half the population needs food aid.

Mr Hlatshwayo’s downfall came after he held an "open day" at Gwina last year, when visitors included some connected with the first lady.

The details of how she forced him off are not clear, but according to legal sources in Harare the judge decided to go to his own court to seek "justice" shortly before Christmas.

He tried to bring an urgent chamber application before a fellow member of the bench, Judge Joseph Musakwa, but was persuaded "one way or another" to drop the case before it was heard.

Mr Hlatshwayo was contacted by The Daily Telegraph and was given all the details in this article. He did not deny anything and said only that he had "no comment".

Once one of the country’s youngest judges, he chaired the commission which drew up the constitution that was rejected in a referendum in 2000. It was Mr Mugabe’s first electoral defeat, which presaged the start of the land invasions two weeks later.

Now the judge is due to be given another farm, south east of Harare – so that either another of the few remaining productive white farmers will be evicted, or one of his Zanu-PF colleagues will be in danger of losing "their" land. Productive white farmers will be evicted, or one of his Zanu-PF colleagues will be in danger of losing "their" land.

Mrs Mugabe was married to an air force officer when she worked as a typist in State House and had two children with Mr Mugabe while his popular first wife Sally was dying of kidney failure.

They married after her death and had a third child together. Mrs Mugabe is now renowned for her prodigious spending ability on overseas shopping trips, and recently attacked a British photographer outside a £2,000-a-night hotel in Hong Kong.

Her spokesman Laurence Kamwi did not answer his telephone and State House said there was no one in her office to comment.

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