BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
THREE chiefs in Bikita, Masvingo province recently led a group of community leaders to enforce a court order giving ownership of a conservancy previously owned by Save Safaris to the local community.
After a protracted legal battle pitting the Save community led by one Nevison Maketo against Save Safaris represented by Leon Duplessis, the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe issued an order giving ownership of the controversial Mapari Farm to Maketo and the community.
Over a period of several years, the Mapari Farm saga went through the magistrates’ courts, the regional courts, the High Court and finally the Supreme Court and in all instances, Maketo and the community were granted relief and ownership of the property.
Strangely however, Save Safaris, with apparent backing of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife, continued with occupancy of the property, forcing the community to approach the local traditional leaders, Chief Budzi, Chief Mazungunye and Chief Marozva.
The three chiefs said they agreed to stand by the community and Maketo after studying the route that the dispute had taken until the final Supreme Court ruling, and also having realised the benefit that the community stood to get out of their partnership with Maketo.
The chiefs’ spokesperson, Chief Budzi said in an interview yesterday that him and his two colleagues, Chief Mazungunye and Chief Marozva were surprised that there was any argument at all over a matter that had been concluded by the Supreme Court.
“We are also perplexed by the interests of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife who keep extending the occupation lease to Save Safaris even after it had expired. The community stands to benefit a lot from their partnership with Maketo, who has already started building a school and other developmental projects in the conservancy.
“Most importantly however, we respect the law of the land and we do not expect anyone to be resisting an order of the Supreme Court. That is why the three of us, as the custodians of traditional land ownership rights visited the place and asked Save Safaris to respect the law and vacate the property peacefully,” said Chief Budzi.
Chief Marozva said the chiefs’ visit to the conservancy was simply to try to implement a legal order — to get the legal owners of the property to peacefully take ownership. We are the traditional custodians of law and order and it is our duty to see that law and order is preserved in our jurisdictions. Save Safaris lost the ownership battle at the courts and they should give way to the new legal owners of the conservancy,” said Chief Marozva.
Duplessis confirmed the farm takeover but could not immediately give details saying he was in a meeting.
“I can confirm that but at the moment I am in a meeting. I will call you later and give you more details,” he said.
ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said those with queries on the matter should follow procedure.
“If anyone has queries they should follow the right procedure,” Farawo said.