It was a brazen attack on the unsuspecting mass of Zimbabwean, after the riot police took to knocking down homes on a farm taken over by Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe tied a rope round the cottages and used a truck to pull them down, Human Rights Watch is reporting.

Some villagers who tried to stop their homes being destroyed in this heartbreaking way on Arnolds Farm in Mazowe were beaten, the watchdog reports in its latest statement.

Several  men were beaten on the soles of their feet.

The demolitions started in March – and took place without a court order. In fact, a High Court judge ruled in late March that police were to stop villagers taking over the farm.

In all, around 200 families were affected.

Police have said in court documents that the farm belongs to Zimbabwe’s first family. Up to 900 families were first moved from the farm in 2012, according to a report by the state-owned Herald Newspaper.

The evictions, which were covered by the local press, have revived memories of the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina slum clearance campaign.