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EXCLUSIVE: Grace Mugabe Owns Animal Farm After All

FILE - Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe's first lady, addresses a rally in Chinhoyi, about 120 kilometers west of Harare, Oct. 2, 2014.

Zimbabwe's First Lady Grace Mugabe applied for a license to run an animal sanctuary in Mashonaland Central, and the evictions underway at Manzou Farm are actually to make way for her, Studio 7 reports exclusively.

Provincial Minister Martin Dinha confirmed Wednesday that he had recommended a permit for Mrs. Mugabe.

Dinha had earlier denied reports of the Mugabes being behind the eviction of villagers who argue they were allocated the property by government at the outset of land reforms in 2000.

But he had changed take on Wednesday, arguing Mrs. Mugabe, a highly polarizing figure, "is entitled to engage in the economic affairs of the country" like any other Zimbabwean.

"Affirmatively, the First Lady has applied for a permit to run part of Manzou," Dinha told VOA Studio 7. "We've recommended that she be given a permit."

He said by next week national parks will release lions and elephants onto the farm.

“As we speak, the Department of National Parks is already putting a fence and by Monday next week lions and elephants will be on that farm.”

The forced removals attracted outrage from rights advocates and political activists who accuse the Mugabe family of multiple farm ownership, a vice that Mr. Mugabe himself has condemned many times.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights condemned the “ruthless evictions that saw the villagers’ personal possessions being burnt."

High Court Judge Erica Ndewere ordered Monday the halting of the removals, saying the affected villagers should not be evicted if no alternative places of residence have been availed by the state.

State Attorney Tymon Tabana had argued that the state had offered alternative pieces of land, but the court was not satisfied with that submission.

The villagers wanted Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, Land Minister Douglas Mombeshora and Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri arrested for violating the court order.

They accused them of being "unquestionably guilty of contempt of court after intentionally disobeying a court order by demolishing their homes and attempting to evict them.”

Their lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara says government must first issue his clients with offer letters if it wants to resettle them.

Section 74 of the new constitution states that “no person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.”