Bridget Mananavire 26 May 2017
HARARE – The government must urgently investigate State police conduct at
Anorld farm in Mazowe, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.
This comes after riot police harassed, beat up and illegally removed 200
families off the farm in Mazowe, Mashonaland Central province, in a farm
seizure believed to be linked to President Robert Mugabe’s family.
The police have also been alleged to be illegally tearing down homes at
Arnold Farm, leaving hundreds of people homeless and destitute in heavy
rains and cold weather.
Residents have occupied the farm for 17 years, and HRW Southern Africa
director Dewa Mavhinga said any process to evict them should respect their
rights and follow due process. “The government should urgently intervene
in the Arnold Farm case to stop the on-going violation of court orders and
abuses,” Mavhinga said.
About 100 riot police began demolishing homes at Arnold Farm on March 17
this year, forcing residents onto trucks and dumping them by the roadside
40 kilometres away.
The rights group said they made efforts to contact lawyers who represent
the Mugabes, as well as provincial affairs and police officials, but did
not receive any reply to questions regarding the ownership of Arnold Farm
and the conduct of the police.
“The police affirmed in a court filing that the Arnold Farm …which the
families have occupied since 2000, is owned by the president’s family,”
the HRW report said.
“The farm residents obtained a High Court order to stop the evictions, and
barred the police from harassing them by demolishing their homes or
attempting to evict them without a valid court order. The police told
lawyers representing the farm residents they were acting on the orders of
their `superiors’ but did not have a High Court order approving the
eviction, as required by the law.
“Many families have lost their crops and livestock during the demolitions
and now live and sleep in the open with no protection from the rain and
cold. Police harassment has prevented the families from harvesting their
corn, sugar beans, and groundnuts crops.”
When a Human Rights Watch team visited Arnold Farm on May 9, they
witnessed four uniformed and armed riot police and six people in civilian
clothes demolish homes and destroy property belonging to farm residents.
HRW said it interviewed five men whom the police had beaten on the soles
of their feet that day for refusing to leave the farm.
The Arnold farm villagers were also arrested for refusing to move from the
farm for trespassing.
According to the HRW, police cordoned off the area and set up entry and
exit checkpoints as well as patrols on the farm.