By Peter Matambanadzo
Five beneficiaries of conservancies in the Save Valley Conservancy in Chiredzi, among them a top army officer and Zanu-PF heavyweights, have taken Government to the High Court demanding to be issued with hunting permits for the 2014 season.
The permits enable them to bring professional hunters from across the globe to hunt game for commercial purposes.
The five officials are; Major-General Engelbert Rugeje (who owns Humani Conservancy), former Tourism and Hospitality Industry permanent secretary Dr Sylvester Bradah Maunganidze (Gununduwe Conservancy), former Gutu West MP Mr Noel Mandebvu (ARDA Mkwasine Conservancy), Mr Josiah Pasi (Levanga Conservancy) and Mr Raymond Musungwa (Makore Conservancy).
The lawsuit comes after a Zanu-PF Politburo meeting in May this year, booted out all individuals who got farms under the agrarian reform from benefiting again in the lucrative wildlife-based land reform.
Through their lawyer, Mr Tendekai Hove of Musunga and Associates, the five said they were seeking an order to compel the Government to issue them with hunting permits for the 2014 quota.
The application cited the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management (now Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate) and the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority as respondents.
However, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, yesterday dismissed the five’s actions as wishful thinking adding that the issue of conservancies was a done deal.
“We have not received the summons, but the decision to withdraw the 25-year leases was a Cabinet decision, which is irreversible,” Kasukuwere said.
He said Government was withdrawing the leases in terms of the law and to address multiple farm ownership, which he described as unacceptable.
Parks and Wildlife Management spokesperson, Mrs Caroline Washaya-Moyo, said they had also not received the summons.
In its May meeting, the Politburo said Government had — with immediate effect — withdrawn all 25-year leases offered to Zanu PF gurus under the Wildlife Based Land Reform Policy that sought to open conservancies to black Zimbabweans.
The ruling party’s highest decision-making organ outside congress also criticised top officials for “double dipping” and owning multiple farms.
However, in their court application, the five argued that they were granted 25-year lease agreements and were entitled to the hunting permits, but the wildlife authority had not acted in accordance with their duties as public officers and administrative authorities by failing to issue out such permits timeously despite demand.
The hunting season runs from March to November annually.
“The application is seeking an order compelling the second respondent (Parks and Wildlife Management Authority) herein to issue out hunting permits for the 2014 season pursuant to a quota approved by the second respondent,” the five argued through their lawyers in the affidavit in the possession of The Herald.
They argued that extensive scientific analysis were conducted including all the necessary procedures including evaluating the impact on the ecology and Parks and Wildlife Management Authority had allocated them a quota specifying the number, gender and species of animals they may hunt within the given period.
“The applicants had already done all necessary processes, that is advertising and preparing the calendar year mostly for international clients to commence hunting within this calendar hunting year.”
They argued that; “The respondent has failed to proffer any reasonable explanation for their non action.”
Government recently unearthed irregularities in the allocation of farms during the land reform programme, as it emerged that some children as young as 10 years-old benefited from the exercise.
It also noted that the land reform programme was marred with double allocation of farms due to a mix up of names.
Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora, last month said a preliminary audit on the database of the beneficiaries done by his ministry revealed that some undeserving people benefited.
The minister said a comprehensive audit to uproot the irregularities was on cards and it required $35 million.
Government would repossess the land that was acquired fraudulently. The Herald