The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has slammed the police for using "excessive force" to evict villagers from a farm reportedly given to First Lady Grace Mugabe.
The commission, which was sworn in by President Robert Mugabe a year ago, carried out a probe into the evictions at Arnold Farm that began in March.
The commission said it had interviewed villagers at the farm, just north of Harare, who "highlighted that those who carried out the demolitions purported to be members of the ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police) acting on instructions from the First Lady to evict the complainants".
"The ZRP also used excessive force which resulted in the assault of anyone who wanted to defend their homes from destruction,” the commission said in its investigative report that has just been published.
The evictions took place just as the country experienced record rains, and while the villagers still had crops in the field. Police tied ropes around houses and used lorries to pull them down to ensure "irreparable destruction", the report noted.
Some of the evicted families were dumped on other land that was already occupied and was unsuitable for crops, added the ZHRC.
Zimbabwe’s lands minister Douglas Mombeshora told the ZHRC that a company, not an individual, had been given an "offer letter" to take over Arnold Farm and several others to be collectively known as Makwiramiti Game Park.
Said the ZHRC report: "On being questioned on whether the investor in question had any links to the First Family, the Minister indicated that the offer letter was given to a company and not an individual and therefore he could not provide details regarding the persons behind the company.”
In March, Martin Dinha, the minister for the province told state media that Grace Mugabe had been invited to "utilise the land as a way of attracting investment".
He told the ZHRC investigators though that he had only engaged the First Family "to take advantage of their social influence to identify investors for the (game park) which required a fence of 86km".