By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
03 July, 2014
The ZANU PF government’s own Herald newspaper has reported that a group of five political and military heavyweights, who were all land beneficiaries in the Save Valley Conservancy in Chiredzi, have filed a case against government at the High Court demanding hunting licenses for this current season.
The Herald said the law suit resulted from a politburo meeting held back in May, where it was decided that individuals who received farms under the land reform programme would not be eligible to benefit from the very lucrative “wildlife-based” land reform.
The paper named Major-General Engelbert Rugeje, former tourism Permanent Secretary Sylvester Bradah Maunganidze, former Gutu West MP Noel Mandebvu, Josiah Pasi and Raymond Musungwa – all owners of conservancies in the Chiredzi area, with 25-year leases.
The five are arguing that extensive scientific analysis was conducted evaluating the impact of hunting on the ecology and Parks and Wildlife Management Authority had allocated them a quota, specifying the number, gender and species of animals that may hunted within the season.
Environment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere is quoted by The Herald as saying the five’s legal action was “wishful thinking” and that he had not received any summons. He told the paper that the decision to withdraw the 25-year conservancy leases was a Cabinet decision which is not reversible.
The Save Valley Conservancy has been the subject of much controversy since army big-wigs and ZANU PF chefs allocated themselves large tracts of land illegally.
The government reversed these invasions and ordered the chefs to vacate the area, causing a row within ZANU PF. But a politburo decision finalized the issue and those who had already been given the leases were told to vacate the Conservancies.
Chiredzi farmer Gerry Whitehead described the lawsuit as “just pure greed”, saying the chefs have all realized that there is less and less land to steal and they want to grab whatever they can while it is still possible.
“A lot of the big-wigs are taking advantage of their power and trying to grab a piece right now before the land grabs end. It is total greed,” Whitehead said.
He explained that the actual owners of those conservancies, who protected the wildlife, have been denied hunting permits for the last three years, even though they bought the properties and developed them. They also still pay for the game scouts who work on the ranches and for the legal costs of bringing poachers to court.
The development comes just days after it was reported that newly appointed High Court judges had demanded commercial farms from the Lands Ministry as well as new robes and professional regalia. Government has agreed to grant their wishes.