Ian Ferguson, who has been battling to save his property after it was invaded by illegal settlers in 2013, has won several court orders against the takeover of the prestine Mananje Conservancy. Ian is rugby star David Pocock ‘s grandfather.
He now fears a $20 million loan the government obtained from Kuwait to construct a water conveyance system from Zhove Dam to irrigate 2 500 hectares of land in the district will be used for the total destruction of the conservancy.
According to the Government Gazette, Ferguson’s property along the Beitbridge-Bulawayo Road, will be used to distribute the water to Bishopstone, Cawood Ranches, Mtetengwe, Mabidi and Malala communal areas.
“This illustrates the open defiance of all court orders and government laid down policy by the provincial and district officers mainly for financial reward,” he said.
“They want to please the politicians, who in our case has been Kembo Mohadi, who for over 20 years has pursued a vicious persecution agenda against the Ferguson family for reasons best known to himself as I have only ever seen him twice in my life and have never spoken to him.”
He said Mohadi’s estranged wife Tambudzani, who is the senator for Beitbridge, had joined the fray as she was allegedly encouraging the illegal settlers to stay put on the property.
“After a lands committee meeting held in Beitbridge chaired by the district administrator Kelibon Ndou, Senator Mohadi arrived on the conservancy and threatened that if the invaders did not start clearing the indigenous river rhine forest, they would not be considered as candidates for an allocation of water and their plots would be allocated to someone else,” Ferguson added.
“This land is totally unsuitable for irrigation purposes and here one is being told by Senator Mohadi to start clearing when there has been a pedologists [soil chemist]report to classify the soil types and suitability.
“No soil pits dug to assess the profile and drainage, no provisional survey.”
He said officials from the Lands ministry had misled their Agriculture ministry counterparts into believing that there was an irrigation scheme in Zhove, as they wanted to grab his property.
Ferguson said the settlers were being encouraged to ignore court orders by senior government officials that he accused of corruption.
“There are illegal occupants who established themselves after the illegal and violent invasion organised by the Ministry of Lands in October 2013 and had been issued with offer letters for five hectares by the Ministry of Lands in contempt of a High Court order not to settle anyone on the conservancy (served on the minister as well as the Local Lands Officer), and have all been served with the ejectment orders witnessed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court,” he added.
“They have been told to ignore them by the local chief lands officer Mtulisi Moyo.”
He said the settlers were not desperate for land as most of them were wealthy people from outside Matabeleland South.
“These people are in the main wealthy businessmen, police officers, government provincial officers and one from South Africa in Johannesburg who has built a resort on the property, of which they all come from other districts and provinces, thus Mutare, Nyanga, Chipinge, Kezi and Bulawayo,” he said.
“The lawlessness and arrogance of the illegal occupants that had been allocated five hectares each have inflicted damage that will take hundreds of years to recover.
“There are about 20 or so of them, which amount if it was legal to 100ha and between them have moved on over 1 000 head of cattle, 500+ goats, 200 sheep, pigs and dogs.”
He said a Lands ministry director identified as Mr Dendere had encouraged the illegal settlers to continue staying at the property in defiance of court orders.
“The conservancy’s attorney in the company of the police asked the local lands officer Mtulisi Moyo why he was not removing the people in line with directives and his response was that he didn’t take instructions from the minister or the permanent secretary, he only took instructions from the deputy director, a man by the name of Mr Dendere,” the farmer added.
“This was further confirmed after Dendere came down with the unannounced visit by the national lands committee which was confined to a meeting with the illegal occupants of the conservancy.
“The settlers told the chief warden that Dendere told them not to move in spite of court orders or government policy as he would have the companies evicted from the conservancy.”
He said the conservancy was subsequently denied a hunting quota for this year by the Zimbabwe National Parks and Management Authority.
“The company has had to cancel all foreign trophy hunts for this year as a result,” Ferguson said.
He said their only option was now to take the Environment and Water ministry to the Constitutional Court to challenge the “persecution”.
Ferguson said they had been pleading for a meeting with Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora to brief him about the problems at the conservancy since March last year to no avail.-AMH