MANANJE Conservancy in Beitbridge is under siege yet again as the fight to take over the wildlife sanctuary from Ian Ferguson intensifies.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
The picturesque Mananje Conservancy on Denlynian Farm, 36km west of Beitbridge along the Bulawayo Road, which is home to a variety of animals including the zebra, impala, giraffe, eland, leopard and a number of bird species, faces an uncertain future after being hit by a series of invasions that have negatively affected operations on the once-thriving game ranch.
The 17 500 ha conservancy, bought by Ferguson in 1985 after government indicated it had no interest in acquiring the land, has been invaded several times since 2000, with the most recent being last month.
“A group of people arrived at one of the conservancy base camps in a police-registered Ford Ranger driven by Superintendent Percy Ndou,” Ferguson said.
“The invasion leader was Steven Mohadi, the younger brother of State Security minister Kembo Mohadi and they had seven arbitrary so-called employees with them as they always do to bolster their numbers.”
“They claimed they had been sent by the lands officer Mtulisi Moyo in Beitbridge to evict all the conservancy staff from the property immediately to enable their employees to occupy their quarters as they were taking the property over.
“The conservancy staff refused to vacate their quarters and locked the doors and just ignored the ranting and raving by Steven Mohadi and some of the employees for most of the day.”
Ferguson said the conservancy staff overheard Steven Mohadi telling the driver of the vehicle that they should leave, taking their employees with them as he feared that the animals on the property might attack them.
“It was found later by the game scouts that the invaders had smashed the lock and chain on the conservancy entrance gate and on leaving they had put on their own lock and chain,” Ferguson said.
“The police were informed of the event and advised the warden to report to the nearest police base when the charge of malicious damage to property and illegal entry was laid.”
Ferguson pointed out that the invasion had the same objective as the invasion that took place in January which was to evict all the conservancy staff from the property and to occupy all the base camps.
“It turned out then to be in anticipation of a visit by the national lands committee sent down “unannounced” by the minister of Lands, and apparently tasked to check the situation on the ground.
“The local lands officer wanted to make sure that the property would be seen to be occupied by so called settlers and that there were no Conservancy staff on the property,” Ferguson alleged.
He added that the national lands committee members didn’t contribute anything at the meeting and seemed to have been brought down with a number of senior officials and police to merely give credence, to what Ferguson alleged, became apparent was Dendere’s agenda to legitimise the occupation of the 20 or so illegal occupants on the conservancy as well as 75 offer letter holders issued in 2002 and 15 in 2005.
Ferguson accused Dendere of being “extremely hostile to the point of being abusive with racial overtones”.
The invasions have continued despite Ferguson’s please to vice presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko to intervene.