Zimbabwe’s former first lady, Grace Mugabe‘s farm in Mazowe, 40 kilometers north of the capital Harare has been invaded by hundreds of illegal artisanal miners and panners commonly referred to as makorokoza.

The former first lady has opened a case but the miners are still on the land. The fight for land in Zimbabwe seems far from over.  Smithfield farm has a citrus plantation and houses the former first lady’s orphanage.

Hundreds of gold panners recently descended on the farm destroying crops and equipment. They claim they are the original owners of the land and have papers to prove it.

“I was born 1957 on this land. Amai Mugabe came recently after being married by Mugabe while I  was here on this land. Sally Mugabe is the mother I know and not Grace,” said miner Makiot Mangiraz.

“We came here to do mining. All these false reports that we are mining in school grounds belonging to Grace are all false. You can see the distance from here to the school is great and it’s allowed by law. When we came here our grandfathers came here in 2004 when it a citrus farm before Mugabe took it over. When Grace Mugabe took over it, she did not even bother to look into our case, we were just given orders to vacate,” said miner, Bongani Chipunza.

The dispute has now spilt over to the courts but the Mugabe’s maintain it is a political matter. They are accusing individuals in the new administration of being involved.

The invasion also comes at a time when relations are strained between the ruling Zanu PF party led by Emmerson Mnangagwa and his predecessor. Mugabe seized the farm several years ago from a former public company, Interfresh which operated in the Mazowe district.

“Farm invasion  is never a good thing. Let’s all learn to observe the laws of the land. If things were not done properly, we cannot correct a wrong by committing a wrong. We should be able to do them correctly no matter how you feel about a  person. I think let’s try and do things correctly. This is a country not just for those who are living today; it’s for generations to come. If history were to be written, it won’t be correct history without Mugabe in it. So please let’s leave room for the future,” said former Zimbabwe Vice President Joyce Mujuru.

“We would want the law to be upheld, every citizen deserves the right to be protected by the law and looking at the events that are currently transpiring on the ground one may want to be forced to be inclined to have that view, you would find out there is an issue of surface rights where these people are mining, they are literally chopping down trees citrus trees to conduct their mining activities,” said Grace’s Lawyer, Walter Chivore.

Last month former president Robert Mugabe raised concerns about his family being harassed.