UNITED KINGDOM Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle at the weekend beamed live across the world had another effect in a small town of Zimbabwe called Beitbridge.
Lying some 12 600km along the Trans Sahara highway south of the venue at St George’s Chapel Windsor Palace, Beitbridgeans say it could have easily been their girl under the veil.
BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
The astute in the small, but busy shipping town, enthusiastically followed live streaming of events at the wedding on television.
To them, the woman in Prince Harry’s hand and wearing his wedding ring on May 19, could have easily been Beitbridge farm girl Chelsy Davy who lived most of her life at Bubye Valley Conservancy (BVC) 60km north-west of Beitbridge.
For seven years she dated Prince Harry, and according to reports, their fans thought they would marry.
“I know Chelsy. We had a lot of interactions with her dad’s workers at their huge farm,” a retired Parks and Wildlife hand James Ndou said.
“She would come to the farm on holidays, that beautiful young girl,” Ndou now in his 70s smiled.
Media stories about Chelsy mention her bush experiences at the farm and her father’s pet hyena, her brushes with snakes in the wild.
The history of her father’s ranch is like a fairytale of from riches to more riches.
Once a legendary cattle ranch, one of the largest in Africa, BVC supplied canned beef to World War II armies.
Then it was under the family of Baron Justus von Liebig who incidentally invented dried soup known as the Oxo cube.
The ranch later changed to Lemco, but continued with beef cattle ranching as its mainstay.
When the concept of wildlife ranching was born under the Parks and Wildlife Act of 1975, many Lowveld cattle ranchers grouped together with their neighbours to form vast wildlife conservancies after removing their boundary fences.
This allowed a resurgence of natural habitat to bounce back and re-stocking the land with indigenous animals.
Several famous conservancies were born such as the Save Valley, Chiredzi River and the Bubiana Conservancy, which was specifically dedicated to rhino conservation.
A series of devastating droughts saw the vast Lemco ranch up for sale and Chelsy’s father took his chance.
He mobilised international financial support and renamed the property after the Bubye River, which runs through it.
The BVC was born and today stands secured by thousands of kilometres of electrified fence.
Thriving herds, including the big five, live in the open savannah, mopani woodlands and in the dense riverine forests sharing with 30 other species on the 3 740 square kilometre BVC.
Black rhinos were first introduced to BVC in 2002 after being translocated from the poacher-infested Zambezi Valley.
Although poaching has crept into the BVC with some incidences being reported now and again, the growth rate of the rhinos has been accelerated.
This is where Chelsy, the girl who stole and kept Prince Harry’s heart for those seven years, was bred after her birth in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city.
Prince Harry and Chelsy might have not have enjoyed the Beitbridge sun, flora and fauna owing to travel restrictions on the following former President Robert Mugabe administration fallout with Britain which affected the royal family.
Chelsy and Harry met regularly in South Africa and Botswana.
“I don’t quite know Chelsy, but yes, I know Mr Davy. He is a local man,” businessman and farmer Elias Chibi told NewsDay.
It is understood Chelsy met Prince Harry in Cape Town and their romance saw her invited to royal family functions regularly.
She was 32 and studying law when she met the prince.
Her stunning looks could have been inherited from her mum Beverley Donald, former Miss Rhodesia 1973.
Chelsy attended the posh private school Cheltenham Ladies College in England.
One magazine describes her life at the farm as a “very rough and tumble life” where she admitted a very outdoor childhood, and how a poisonous boomslang snake once fell on her head in Beitbridge.
In Cape Town, she survived a robbery at gunpoint.
Last year in November Chelsy was on Twitter sharing her delight that the 93-year-old former President Robert Mugabe had stepped down from power.
British paper The Daily Mail claims she wrote online: “Zimbabwe, you beauty. Rise up” and described the president’s ousting as a “fresh start” for the African nation adding, “Proudly Zimbabwean”.
During her affair with Prince Harry, Chelsy is known to have been a regular feature at her lover’s home and parties.
She met the Queen at a society wedding, was a guest at Prince Charles’ 60th birthday,
and was even invited to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding despite no longer being with Harry whom she broke up with in 2011.
She admitted she struggled with the pressure of dating a royal and she came back to Beitbridge to clear her head, according to reports.
She remains a friend of Prince Harry and images of her at his wedding at the weekend were awash in the media.
Chelsy is now running her mine in Zambia, and splits her time between there, her parents in Beitbridge and a home she owns in West London.
But for Beitbridge residents, her break-up with Prince Harry denied them a closer link with the British Royals.