By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
14 July 2014
ZANU PF supporters have invaded a nature reserve owned by the Bulawayo City Council claiming that the municipality is keeping it for white people.
The invasion occurred last week Monday when more than 100 ruling party activists arrived at Mazwi Nature Reserve at St Peter’s on the outskirts of the city.
The invaders told the Southern Eye newspaper that their actions were sanctioned by the local ZANU PF leadership and vowed to resist any attempts to evict them.
Just last year another group of ZANU PF supporters briefly occupied the same sanctuary before they were evicted. This time however the police have said the invasion is a sensitive issue, and they will only act on the advice of their seniors.
The invaders are said to be cutting down trees and pegging and allocating themselves plots. Animals such as giraffes and impalas that are kept at the reserve are also at risk, amid reports that the council rangers have fled the place.
In an interview with SW radio Africa on Monday Bulawayo Mayor Martin Moyo said the occupation demonstrates disrespect for property rights, and the municipality will be taking legal action to get the invaders off the land.
“At the moment the land functions as a nature and game sanctuary but we have other plans for it. For example, the growing Cowdray Park suburb will soon need a new sewer treatment plant and we have been considering locating it on that land.
“The city is also expanding and we need that land for that as well. So the prospect of losing an inch of our land, whether legally or illegally, is frightening for us at Bulawayo City Council,” Mayor Moyo said.
The Mayor also dismissed as racist and nonsensical claims by the invaders that the council is keeping the land on behalf of white people.
“One thing I have to say about us Zimbabweans is that we have become arch-racists, even more racist than apartheid South Africa.
“We don’t know which whites they are talking about. Bulawayo council is all black and we are all keen to serve our people and if white people are residents of this city we will serve them as well.
“I am appealing to common sense and responsibility from the invaders. Council is holding that land in trust and invading it violates the rights of residents who own it. It should not take a court order for commonsense to prevail,” Moyo added.
The Mazwi occupation comes hard on the heels of President Robert Mugabe’s order that all white people be kicked off the farms as they had no right to land.
“No to whites owning our land. They can own companies and apartments in our towns and cities but not the soil,” Mugabe told black farmers in Mhangura recently.
Mugabe warned beneficiaries of his land grab scheme against subleasing to whites and said those found doing so risk losing the farms.
Some of the 4,000 white farmers dispossessed since the onset of the violent land grabs in 1999 have been renting pieces of land from black farmers. Mugabe’s latest utterances indicate that he means to eliminate all whites from the farming sector.
International human rights publication Christian Monitor described Mugabe’s stance as “the harshest official policy on race and land reform.”