Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe: Invasion of tourism facility near Harare

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

23 January 2011

 

Zimbabwe:  Invasion of tourism facilities near Harare

 

In what looks to be the start of the next phase of state-sponsored property heists in Zimbabwe, over 20 tourism facilities have been invaded in Lake Chivero Recreational Park (formerly Lake Mcllwaine), 37 km south west of Harare.   

 

The lake is Harare’s main water supply and the surrounding land was declared a national park shortly after construction was completed in 1952.  The game park, currently home to some of the last white rhino in Zimbabwe, was opened in 1962.

 

The invasion was reported on Friday (January 21) when a mob of about 150 people arrived without warning on Kumba Shiri resort, where the renowned Larvon Bird Gardens are situated.  

 

Larvon Bird Gardens has aviaries housing approximately 120 species of birds and, as well as being Zimbabwe’s bird orphanage, is also an education centre.   

 

The invaders, wearing Zanu-PF regalia, put their own padlocks on the gates and residents in the 30 homesteads on the property were prevented from leaving.  They were also not allowed to arrange the removal of any of their movable property.

 

 All of the workers in the bird gardens were also locked in, as well as a number of visitors.

 

Police from Marimba eventually arrived at Lake Chivero late Friday afternoon but no action has as yet been taken against the forced take-over. 

 

All along the lake shore approximately 20 clubs and other tourist facilities with either freehold title or leasehold from National Parks have been similarly invaded with their gates locked. 

 

Viv Baxter from Wingate went over by boat to check on the caretaker at Jacana Yacht Club, Des Fenner, who is blind.  He was taken hostage and only managed to return after several hours.

 

On Saturday afternoon National Parks personnel came out but the invaders have so far been allowed to continue their program.   

 

The owners of the tourist facilities have been warned by the invaders that this is the start of a countrywide indigenisation campaign that will initially target all tourist resorts where white people are involved.  

 

Kumba Shiri resort is owned by a South African investor, Gary Stafford.  

 

BIPPA with South Africa

 

On May 15 last year, South Africa and Zimbabwe finally ratified a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) that was signed by Zimbabwe’s Economic Planning Minister Elton Mangoma and South Africa’s Trade Minister Rob Davies in Harare in November 2009.

 

“The purpose of the agreement is to stimulate individual business initiatives and increase prosperity in both countries through the creation of favorable conditions for investment by South African investors in Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean investors in South Africa,” the ministry said in a statement.

 

Negotiations for the deal started in 2002 as South African companies – the largest African investors in Zimbabwe – required reassurance that President Mugabe’s government would abide by international norms regarding property rights following the violent land invasions.

 

Aaron Mazvi, leader of the invasion, is district chairman of the war veterans in the Zvimba community west of Harare, President Mugabe’s rural home.

 

In Mazvi’s memo of January 6, 2011 to Minister Herbert Murerwa on “the take-over of properties along the lower and upper reaches of Lake Chivero”, Mazvi states the following on behalf of the “Zvimba community at large”:

 

 “… In view of the government requisite that blacks should be empowered through the attainment of 51 percent shareholdings in foreign funded operations, I do hereby propose that the clubs be occupied and redistributed amongst community members and some be reserved for Ministers, top government officials, senators, Members of Parliament, Chiefs and those in the hierarchy of traditional leadership.”

 

Previous Invasions

 

Aaron Mazvi has played a leading role in violent farm invasions in the Mashonaland West area, including the property next door, RB Ranches, where he currently resides.  The first farm invasion in Mashonaland took place in 2000 on Saffron Waldon farm close by.

 

The murder of two well-known white farmers in the district occurred during the early years of the invasions, notably the high profile beating and then shooting of commercial farmer Terry Ford (51) on Gowrie farm at Norton in 2002. 

 

Don Stewart, a 68-year-old dairy farmer from Norton, was beaten and burnt to death in November 2005.    Several of the farms in the area were taken over by the Mugabe family.  

 

Numerous cases of violence against farm workers were also recorded.  Although in many cases the perpetrators are known, there is no record of any having been convicted. 

 

Landmark SADC torture ruling

 

            This month, in a landmark ruling that exposed Harare’s flagrant disregard for the rule of law, the Namibian-based SADC Tribunal ordered the Zimbabwean government to pay damages to nine torture victims who had successfully claimed compensation in the High Court of Zimbabwe.  

 

The government had neglected or refused to pay compensation to the victims.

 

Commentators said the ruling could open the floodgates for other victims of armed forces brutality who have failed to get fair hearings in Zimbabwe’s partisan courts.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

 

Lake Chivero Recreational Park

 

            Lake Chivero Recreational Park was opened in 1962 and holds a variety of game, most of which had originally been brought in from Lake Kariba during the internationally acclaimed game rescue operation known as “Operation Noah”.

 

            Game includes rhinoceros, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, eland, waterbuck, tsessebe, bush pig, porcupine, pangolin and ant bear.

 

            The park was originally known as Lake Mcllwaine Recreational Park in memory of the late Sir Robert McIlwaine, a former judge of the High Court and founder of Zimbabwe’s Soil and Water Conservation Movement.

 

            A popular destination for local and international birdwatchers, Lake Chivero has a wide variety of bird life, including African open bills, barbets, bee-eaters, buzzards, coots, cormorants, hamerkops, jacanas, kingfishers, grey herons, darters, Goliath herons, fish eagles, glossy starlings and lilac-breasted rollers.

 

            Several of the kopjies (rocky outcrops) have San (Bushman) paintings on their sheltered surfaces.

 

Cholera

 

            Despite Lake Chivero being Harare’s main water supply source, it was reported in August 2007 that the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) had dumped raw sewage into the lake. Public clinics reported they were treating about 900 cases of diarrhoea daily.

 

            On 4 December 2008, the Zimbabwean government declared the cholera outbreak a national emergency and called for international assistance.

 

In September 2010 it was reported that raw sewage was being pumped directly into the Mukuvisi River, a tributary of Lake Chivero, and the situation was described as a “health time bomb”.

 

ENDS

 

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

 

Ben Freeth – Spokesman for SADC Tribunal Rights Watch

Zimbabwe

Cell:  +263 773 929 138

E-mail:  [email protected]  

 

War Veteran: 

Aaron Mazvi – Cell: +263 772 810 761 

 

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