By Thabani Zwelibanzi
Ntabazinduna chief, Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni is on yet another collision course with the government, as he is reportedly working with a white farmer to remove police officers who illegally occupied Portwe Estate and Bembesi Conservancy.
In 2007, the High Court ruled that the police should leave the farm that they had occupied that year, but to this date, the law enforcement agents are still on the property, much to the chagrin of its owner, Dave Joubert.
“With the support of Chief Nhlanhla Felix Ndiweni, the paramount chief of our neighbours, the Ndebele people, with whom we’ve worked closely for years, we are now embarking on a campaign to apply the 2007 court order and regain our farm and conservancy project,” Joubert said in a statement.
Joubert said initial efforts to evict the police officers had failed, but government statements since January 2018 had given him confidence that a solution could be found.
He said he had developed a conciliatory approach to the situation, with the hope of creating a “win-win” solution which will enable agricultural production to resume and to pave the way for the planning and implementation of the joint venture project.
But that confidence is waning as there was clear political interference, while and policy anomalies made progress on the issue impossible.
“Even entry to the farm or an audit of the property taken by the ZRP at the invasion has been frustrated and blocked by senior officers operating from the Hwange district in northwestern Zimbabwe,” Joubert said.
In setting up the conservancy, Joubert said he had worked with the late former governor of Matabeleland North, Welshman Mabhena.
He explained that the initiative was backed by Chief Ndiweni’s late father and predecessor, Chief Khayisa Ndiweni.
At inception, the area was meant to be conservancy that promoted Ndebele and international historical tourism “because the road through the farm was taken by Lobengula, the last king of the Ndebele nation, so the area has immense historical significance, as well as important spiritual sites,” Joubert explained.
“This visionary plan requires a government which understands the importance of the initiative and will guarantee the security of title, which is also critical if international investors are to participate.
“Beyond positive government rhetoric, there is apparently no plan to follow its own laws, let alone encourage development at every level.”
At the time of the invasion, Portwe Estate had 1 000 ostriches, all for export to European markets, 100ha maize for silage for ostrich feed, 20ha lucerne for ostrich feed, 50ha very high quality paprika, all for export, mainly to Spain – rotated with maize, potatoes and fodder grasses and 3ha vegetables for the local markets of Bulawayo, communal neighbours and neighbouring gold miners.
Joubert accuses the police of running down the farm, taking equipment, while some structures are unkempt and derelict.