SECURITY chiefs embroiled in the fight to control Mjingwe Ranch in Mwenezi have defied the Zanu PF politburo directive for them to stay off the wildlife conservancy and threatened the eviction of white owner Darryl Collett, who is in a partnership with local traditional chiefs.
Collett — who owns Mjingwe Ranch with South African investor Alastair Forsyth and local communities through Chiefs Mazetese and Maranda — has reportedly fled to Bulawayo for his safety.
This came hardly a week after Guruve farmer Malcolm Francis and his daughter Catherine were savagely attacked by unknown assailants at their farm. They later died of the injuries.
The invasion by Police Assistant Commissioner Elliot Muswita and Brigadier-General Josphat Kudumba’s group was in direct defiance to President Robert Mugabe’s order recently when he attacked the “greedy” security elites during a Zanu PF special politburo meeting in Harare.
The group also includes Army Captain Solomon Ndlovu, headman Peterson Mhizha Mudumo, Raphael Shoko and Finger Tapera.
Informed sources told NewDay that following the invasion by the security chiefs, who recently demanded $500 000 from Collett for him to avoid eviction, some 1 000 villagers from the local community gathered to protest against them.
It is understood that the 1 000 restive crowd from the local communities that had gathered at the ranch was reportedly calmed down by Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti.
Although Bhasikiti, who was tasked by the Zanu PF politburo to ensure all top party officials adhered to the directive by end of this month, said he had not
gone to the ranch “personally”, he confirmed the disturbances.
He said he would engage the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) for a report on the disturbances and ensure order was restored. Bhasikiti warned anyone against defying government orders.
“I didn’t go there myself. I am awaiting a full written report and I am yet to get one,” Bhasikiti said.
“They called and said there were disturbances, but I will make sure Zimparks officials tell us what is happening there. We will not work on hearsay. In government, we work on clear policies. If an order is given, it has to be followed by all Zimbabweans and those who can’t will be defying government. But on this one, the politburo decision is supposed to be ratified by Cabinet so that decision was waiting to come through Cabinet.”
It is understood that the service chiefs brought a “document” which they wanted to force Collett and the chiefs to agree to, forcing him (Collett) to flee to Bulawayo.
Collett was not immediately available for comment on the matter, but those close to the developments said poachers were arbitrarily slaughtering wildlife in the ranch since Saturday.
Muswita yesterday confirmed the disturbances, but refused to give details, referring all questions to police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba or her deputy Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi who were not available.
The source said: “More than 1 000 people gathered from the community in support of the chiefs and the owners. Among the 1 000 was Minister Bhasikiti. The invaders are poaching in the ranch. The service chiefs have gone to the farm to evict Collett as a result of the newspaper article. They have gone there with army assistance.”
The security chiefs last week reportedly demanded $500 000, failure of which they said they would evict Collett.
The money, according to the group, was supposed to be part of their “shareholding dividends” from the wildlife farm from the time they were given their offer letters.
The offer letters have, however, been revoked following Mugabe’s directive recently.
The settlers — armed with a 25-year lease from the Zimparks — demanded through their lawyers Chuma, Gurajena and Partners that the Mjingwe owners vacate the farm by May 19 2014 or else they would be evicted to pave way for them.
The ranch also has a Zimbabwe Investment Authority certificate and, therefore, was protected under the country’s investment policies.
Over 200 villagers, including war veterans, last week invaded Tongaat Hullets, claiming the sugar-producing firm had encroached onto their landholdings.
Over 100 of them were arrested and were appearing in court.