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Manzou Farm: The real story

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THE sight of felled trees, yawning pits and heaps of sand has replaced the once thick forests that once made up Manzou Animal sanctuary in Mazowe.
Those that knew the place will now find it an eyesore, a place in need of reclamation. Over the past few months, Manzou Farm has hit headlines in both local and international media.
Emphasis has been put on the political dimension of the story with little attention paid to its history and the environmental aspect.
Prior to the Land Reform Programme, the place was used for livestock production and it belonged to Mazowe Citrus Company.
It was also a sanctuary for wild animals.
In 2000 when land was apportioned, nearly 1 200 families relocated to the farm.
However, on March 23 2007 it was gazetted by Government that the area revert to being a national monument in terms of the National Museums and Monuments Act (Chapter 25:11).
The gazette stipulated that no-one was allowed to cut down trees, excavate or settle in the area without the express authority of Government.
This meant that it became a National Park and a national heritage site, which needed to be protected.
In terms of this Government proclamation, the area should be preserved as a cultural heritage site and must not be occupied for settlement.
Following the stipulation, the farmers at Manzou were moved to Lazy Blagdon and Nyandirwi Farms.
The media is awash with stories blaming Government and in some sections the First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe for ‘illegally’ removing the families settled at the farm and bringing in wild animals.
A few families remained behind raising suspicions of whether they are genuine farmers.
The Patriot visited Manzou farm on Tuesday.
It is a rocky and hilly place, making it difficult to practise crop production.
One Fungisai Masaka acknowledged that Government had given them an alternative place to stay, but she had however stayed put at Manzou Farm.
“Last year we were informed about the developments in the area and that we should move to Lazy Blagdon Farm,” she said.
“I went there for a short while and came back.”
Investigations by The Patriot showed that the few remaining families at Manzou farm are into gold panning which has done more harm than good to the environment.
The illegal miners are mining in the surrounding mountains of Nhande, Mbeve and along the numerous streams of water in the farm leaving behind a trail of destruction.
Roads and bridges around the farm have been damaged by the settlers with some roads now impassable.
“I came here from Bulawayo not to farm, but I heard people were making money from the gold here,” said an illegal miner who identified himself as Nkomo.
“On average, I can get seven grammes from which I make at least US$280.”
Illegal miners like Nkomo do not have the necessary expertise and resources to implement environmental management and mitigation programmes when they fell trees and dig up the land in search of gold.
The felled trees and dug up earth choke river channels and this results in flooding.
The mines are leaving behind a trail of sand heaps and pits. The pits have become a danger to animals and people as well, especially during this rain season when they are filled up with water.
The illegal miners are wantonly using mercury to recover gold.
The substance is polluting water sources and the settlers and miners face the risk of mercury poisoning.
During the rain season, the runoff from the processing areas close to the river results in serious consequences for aquatic flora and fauna.
Pundits contend that the removal of the illegal gold panners from the area and the bringing in of wildlife can help restore and preserve Manzou farm.
The wildlife is expected to help in the biodiversity conservation and recreation, the mitigation of climate change and natural disasters.The fate of Mazowe River close by is at stake if the illegal mining activities continue.
The Manzou saga will continue to rage but thoughts should be spared on the damage to the environment and the general ecosystem.
Politicising the issue is futile and pointless.

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