By Oscar Nkala
BULAWAYO - A group led by ZANU PF supporters and war veterans have invaded Denlynian and Tamari Wildlife farms in Beitbridge where they have ransacked the places, decimated endangered wildlife species, stolen 7 km of 16 strand game fencing to make snares and destroyed more than 200 hectares of virgin forest through veldfires.
The group, which calls itself the 'Zhovhe Conservancy Society' is composed of civil servants, members of the army, the police, the Central Intelligence Organisation, Beitbridge Rural District Council staff and ZANU PF activists.
In a statement, Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce (ZCTF) chairman Johnny Rodrigues expressed dismay at the continued invasions of wildlife farms and the wanton destruction of property, including endangered game species at the farms.
"It is now ten years since the implementation of the land reform programme and the very few game farms left are still being invaded. The invaders have spent the last ten years vandalising the properties and slaughtering the wildlife that was previously abundant. They have especially targeted zebra and eland. The eland population has dropped from 973 in 2000 to 374 - a drop of 560 animals and the zebra population has fallen from 871 to 163 animals, a drop of 708 animals," Rodrigues said.
He added that the invaders are creating an ecological disaster, destroying nearly 200 hectares of trees to open up land for tillage when the land is only fit for widlife farming.
"The ecosystem is now so fragile that if the land is tilled, the soil will end up in the river. Seven kilometres of 16 strand game fence has been stolen to make snares wire snares - a total of 112 km of wire. We have received information that 7 animals were killed last week comprising eland, wildebeest, impala and the slaughter is continuing."
He said the owners of the invaded game farms had checked with the Deeds Registry office and found no organisation registered as the Zhovhe Conservancy Co-operative. The invaders have also reportedly ignored several court orders to leave the farm, and the police, who are among the invaders, have so far refused to enforce the court orders.
Environment minister Francis Nhema declined to comment on the developments in Beitbridge saying he could only do so after receiving a full report on the situation from his officers on the ground. "For now I cannot comment because no one has raised the issue with me. Its news to me," Nhema said.
The ongoing plunder of wildlife, particularly elephants, rhinos and zebras has grown into a highly lucrative industry and security forces and government officials have been implicated in many detailed reports. However, no one has been arrested and there are no indications that the state will be swooping on the high profile poachers who still walk the corridors of power in this country.