ILLEGAL settlers have laid siege to one of the most popular wildlife sanctuaries in Beitbridge, with the owner warning that the game reserve is on the verge of total destruction.
BY Kudzai Kawaza
Mananje Conservancy, on Denlynian Farm, lying 36km from Beitbridge town along the Bulawayo Highway, was first invaded by the settlers in 2010, but in the past fortnight, more people have arrived to clear the land once declared unsuitable for human habitation by the government.
The picturesque area is home to a variety of animals, including zebra, impala, giraffe, eland, leopard and a variety of bird species, that had become a drawcard for tourists and trophy hunters.
Ian Ferguson, the conservancy owner, said the settlers this week started clearing a large section of the property in violation of a slew of court orders.
“The lawlessness and arrogant illegal occupants, that had been allocated five hectares each, have inflicted damage that will take hundreds of years to recover.
“There are about 20 or so of them, which amount, if it was legal 100 hectares and between them have moved on over 1 000 head of cattle 500 plus goats, 200 sheep, pigs and dogs,” he wrote in a letter to European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe, Phillipe van Damme.
“These people, subject to a directive by the permanent secretary of Lands, should be removed from the conservancy forthwith.”
Ferguson expressed concern in his letter to Van Damme over the impact of the invasions on the conservancy, saying he feared influential people were behind the chaos at the conservancy.
“After a lands committee meeting held in Beitbridge chaired by the district administrator, Keliboni Ndou, Senator (Tambudzani) Mohadi arrived at the conservancy and threatened that if the invaders did not start clearing the indigenous river rhine forest, they would not be considered candidates for an allocation of water and their plots will be allocated to someone else,” the distraught farmer wrote.
“This land is totally unsuitable for irrigation purposes and here one is being told by Senator Mohadi to start clearing when there has been no pedologists (soil chemists) report to classify the soil types and suitability.
“No soil pits dug to assess the profile and drainage, no provisional survey etc.”
The government has, in the past, claimed that fresh land invasions would no longer be tolerated, but the practice continues to the detriment of the country’s agriculture industry.
Mohadi could not be reached for comment.