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Grace Mugabe leaves workers on her Zimbabwe farm without pay

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Grace Mugabe

Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s millionaire former first lady forced from power in last year’s coup has not paid her farm workers for months despite living a luxury lifestyle paid for by the state she and her husband once ruled, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

Workers on the Mugabes’ network of Zimbabwean farms – several of which were appropriated from white farmers – said they had not received salaries for three months.

Robert and Grace Mugabe have a vast property portfolio in Zimbabwe and South Africa worth more than £50 million. Despite being ousted last year, the Zimbabwean state still spends millions flying the couple by private jet for medical treatment in Singapore.

Zimbabwe’s government also said this week that it would not extradite Mrs Mugabe, 53, to South Africa, which issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday for allegedly attacking a 21-year-old model with an electrical extension cord in a Johannesburg hotel last year.

However her 94-year-old husband, who can reportedly no longer walk, still has many supporters among the people and in the government.

Zimbabwean officials are unlikely to move against Mrs Mugabe while her husband is still alive.

South African prosecutors allege that Mrs Mugabe burst into a hotel room where her sons, Robert Mugabe Jr, 26, and Chatunga Bellarmine, 21, were drinking with Gabriella Engels, a 21-year-old model.

Mrs Mugabe allegedly struck Ms Engels with a power chord, leaving her with injuries to her forehead and to the back of her head, as her sons looked on. She faces up to two years in prison if convicted on charges of grievous bodily harm.

South African police allowed Mrs Mugabe to leave the country, which had become the base for her second home, after the incident when she claimed diplomatic immunity.

Her diplomatic status was revoked by a South African court this summer following last year’s coup d’etat which forced the Mugabe from power.

Energy Mutodi, Zimbabwe’s deputy information minister, said his country would view any attempt to extradite Mrs Mugabe as “harassment”.

“We will not smile on any attempt to embarrass‚ ill-treat or diminish the image of former president Robert Mugabe or his immediate family members,” Mr Mutodi said. “An attack on Grace Mugabe is an attack on the former president…our founding father and liberation icon and his misery is undesirable to us.”

Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mr Mugabe’s replacement as Zimbabwe’s president, pledged to continue supporting the Mugabes’ generous pension package which includes healthcare for both of them in Singapore.

The couple dislikes commercial travel and so Mr Mnangagwa hired private jets several times this year which flew Mr and Mrs Mugabe directly from Harare to Singapore’s exclusive Gleneagles Hospital.

The medical treatments and travel cost Zimbabwe at least £25 million this year when the state cannot afford to import basic medication for public hospitals and most state medical staff, including senior doctors, are on strike over poor wages.

Sources close to Mrs Mugabe in Singapore told The Sunday Telegraph she “spends money like water”. They say the Mugabe cash is held outside the country.

Mr Mugabe bought a farm in 2000 but went on to seize a further four adjoining properties from which white farmers, who were expelled without compensation. They employ around 100 workers across 12 farms.

The state ran the farms for the Mugabes and also secretly bought Zimbabwe’s most successful dairy in 2003 for Mrs Mugabe from a white farmer. She invested heavily in the dairy, but it has never yet covered its costs.

Most of their rural assets and the two expensive schools built by Mrs Mugabe on appropriated land are no longer fully operational since Mr Mugabe was ousted from power in last November’s coup.

Farmers told The Sunday Telegraph they were hoping Mrs Mugabe would pay them by Christmas Eve.

“We are worried for the last months, but we got a message will be paid next week, on December 24,” said one worker.

Mrs Mugabe and her associates, and the Zimbabwean government declined to respond to requests for comment this week from The Sunday Telegraph.

The Telegraph

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BUSINESS

Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers

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Zimbabwe White Farmers

Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to Zimbabwe white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 Zimbabwe white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 Black families, arguing it was redressing colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.

Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing  Zimbabwe white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people. Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West. Reuters

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NEWS

Chinamasa calls U.S. ambassador ‘thug’ as anti-government protests loom

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Chinamasa

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Monday called the United States ambassador a “thug” and accused him of funding the opposition ahead of this week’s planned anti-government protests that authorities say are meant to overthrow the government.

Without providing evidence, ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa told reporters that U.S. ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, was involved in subversive activities to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Chinamasa’s comments echo the Robert Mugabe era, where the ZANU-PF government regularly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to dislodge it from power.

“He (Nichols) continues to engage in acts of undermining this republic and if he does so, if he continues engaging in acts of mobilising and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgents, our leadership will not hesitate to give him marching orders,” Chinamasa said.
“Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug.”

The U.S. embassy in Harare did not immediately respond to Chinamasa’s comments. Political tensions are rising fast in the southern African nation after activists called for demonstrations on July 31 against government corruption, which they blame for deepening the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Last month, the government summoned Nichols after a senior White House official said Zimbabwe was among “foreign adversaries” using the civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd to interfere in U.S. affairs.

The U.S., Britain, E.U. embassies and the United Nations have all criticised Zimbabwe for the arrest of journalists and political challengers.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the West were promising when Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe after a coup in 2017, but have soured over the government’s human rights record.

Patrick Chinamasa urged party supporters to defend themselves from protesters and avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that followed post-election demonstrations in August 2018 and the January 2019 protests over a steep fuel price hike.“No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves,” Chinamasa said. Organisers say this week’s protests will be peaceful. Reuters

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HEALTH

Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe Agriculture Minister Dies

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Perrence-Shiri-Dead

Zimbabwe’s agriculture minister Perence Shiri, a retired general who helped plot the ouster of Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has died, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

Perence Shiri, who commanded the air force for 25 years until he joined the government in 2017, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, two government sources said. He died in the early hours of Wednesday.

“Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his country,” Mnangagwa said in a statement. He did not say how Shiri died.

But domestic media said Shiri, 65, succumbed to complications from the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which has infected 2,817 and killed 40 in Zimbabwe.

A liberation war veteran,Perrence Shiri had a chequered past. He commanded the army’s Fifth Brigade unit that carried out the 1980s massacres of thousands of civilians in western Zimbabwe as the government sought to quell an insurgency.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’, a Shona term meaning the ‘early rain that washes away the chaff’, remain a sore point for the people of the Matabeleland region, many of whom demand justice and reparations.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused Perence Shiri of being among the security chiefs who organised violence against its members after Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential vote in 2008.Reuters

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