Grace Mugabe, the 52-year-old wife of 94-year-old deposed dictator Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, reported on Thursday that a swarm of illegal miners overran her estate north of Harare to dig for gold and vandalize her property.
She claimed the mob verbally abused her when she confronted them and demanded they leave. On Sunday, the Zimbabwean government accused Mugabe of fabricating the incident and said she was actually involved in a legal dispute with several mining syndicates.
According to Grace Mugabe, about 400 people invaded her lemon plantation, destroyed irrigation equipment, damaged the fruit trees, and stole property including a number of laptop computers. A nearby children’s home sponsored by Mugabe was also said to have been ransacked.
Mugabe said that when she went to the farm to confront the illegal “gold panners,” they broke into a song identified with the coup that deposed her husband and replaced him with the current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“You don’t tell us to leave, we are just workers. Go and tell that to those who employed us,” the panners reportedly shouted at Mugabe, along with a healthy dose of what she described as “obscenities.” She described the invaders as an organized mob dispatched by a political opponent of the Mugabe family to wreak havoc on their property.
Mugabe also accused the Mnangagwa government of stripping her and Robert Mugabe’s property of security protection to deliberately expose them to vandalism as punishment for Robert Mugabe accusing Mnangagwa of overthrowing him in an illegal coup.
“Does it mean that if President Mnangagwa is removed tomorrow, he will be disposed of his investments? Is this how he wants to be treated with his investments?” Grace Mugabe angrily asked reporters.
The Zimbabwean government, in turn, accused Mugabe of misrepresenting and politicizing the incident.
“The ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police] attended the scene on 30th and 31st March 2018 and established through interviews and physical checks that there were no illegal miners at the children’s home and lemon plantation,” Minister of Home Affairs and Culture Dr. Obert Mpofu said on Sunday.
“The inquiries revealed that there is a mining dispute between the former First Family and three mining syndicates – Mondo 3 led by Bright Maonga, Mondo 4 mining claim led by Shepherd Nyazvingo and Xmas 159 led by Mohammed Khan,” Mpofu continued. “The syndicates went to the High Court and obtained a provisional order which bars the police and Gushungo Holdings from interfering with their mining operations.”
Mpofu went on to say that some laptops were stolen from the Mugabe-sponsored school, but it was her own workers who took them in an “inside job” and two of them have already been arrested for the crime.
He insisted that the reduction of police protection for Mugabe property was done in accordance with agreements the deposed dictator agreed to last month and was not intended to expose the Mugabes to vandalism or violence.
“Let me make it clear that all criminal reports related to security and property of the former First Family will be swiftly attended to and investigated without fear or favor,” Mpofu said.
Local reporters visited Mugabe’s plantation after she filed her police complaint, and they did indeed find hundreds of workers panning for gold, digging crude mine shafts, and knocking over citrus trees.
“Gucci Grace,” as detractors like to call her, is resented for living a flamboyant, lavish lifestyle while Zimbabwe sank into hideous poverty under her husband’s policies. Robert Mugabe’s effort to install her as his heir apparent was a major factor behind the coup that drove him from power.
The farm that was said to be overrun with gold panners was formerly the site of a village, but Grace Mugabe had them all evicted in 2015 when she decided to take the land for herself. Last month, the villagers demanded compensation and said Mugabe should come and apologize to them for her “cruelty.” One of the gold panners reportedly taunted Mugabe that she no longer has the power to evict people from the land she covets.