Private conservancies not recognised under Zimbabwe law?


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Private conservancies were not recognised under the Zimbabwe law, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism Lucas Tavaya told a United States embassy official nine years ago.

But he backtracked when he was asked whether the government did not recognise the existence of private conservancies such as Malilangwe, Save Valley and Bubiana.

Tavaya had told the embassy official that many farmers had turned previously productive land to the cultivation of wildlife for their personal benefit to the detriment of Zimbabwe’s food security.

He said most farms calling themselves conservancies did not meet the definition of a conservancy.

The US embassy was complaining about the repossession of farms owned by American citizens which they had developed into private conservancies.

It is not clear whether Tavaya was talking about the law as it existed then or up to now.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 03HARARE301, ANOTHER AMCIT PROPERTY FORMALLY SEIZED

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE301

2003-02-12 06:25

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000301

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ECON EAGR PHUM PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: ANOTHER AMCIT PROPERTY FORMALLY SEIZED

 

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET POSTING.

 

1. (SBU) Summary. A fourth American-owned property has now

received final notice of acquisition from the Minister of

Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement. The other forcibly

acquired properties now occupy a limbo as their owners pursue

various legal challenges and political solutions. Although

the most recently acquired property was purchased well after

independence and was designated as a “wildlife conservancy,”

two categories which should have offered some protection, it

is unclear whether protests, legal challenges, or personal

relationships will be enough to return possession of the

property to the Amcit title holders. End summary.

 

2. (SBU) The Zimbabwean property belonging to two American

citizens, Sam and Janet Chambliss, was served with a Section

8 notice, or Final Notice of Acquisition, on January 26,

2003. The Chamblisses bought their property in 1985, and

after investing close to US $750,000, they formally

incorporated the property as a wildlife conservancy under

Zimbabwe law in 1993. Approximately fifteen separate farms

in the Midlands province were served with Section 8 notices

that same weekend, despite the GOZ’s oft-repeated claim last

November and December that “the land resettlement program is

now complete.” Post responded, as we have for other American

citizens in similar situations, with a diplomatic note of

protest addressed to the Foreign Ministry, which has gone

unanswered.

 

3. (SBU) In this case, Ambassador Sullivan also called the

Governor of the Midlands province, Cephas Msipa, to discuss

the forced acquisition. Governor Msipa is a personal friend

of the Chamblisses and had previously managed to cushion them

to some degree from the chaotic land grab. In one instance

during the fall of 2002, while the Chamblisses were in the

United States on personal business, a Harare physician showed

up at the rural property and advised the caretaker that he

was there to claim the farm. The Chamblisses contacted

Governor Msipa from the US; Msipa assured them that the

claimant was not legitimate and that they could ignore the

attempted land-grab and return to their property.

 

4. (SBU) Governor Msipa advised the Ambassador that he had

spoken with the Chamblisses the day before his conversation

with the Ambassador. Msipa claimed that he did not

understand why the new Section 8 notices had gone out, since

the GOZ had agreed on December 8 not to notify any

conservancy owners of impending acquisition until a general

land policy toward conservancies was agreed upon and

implemented. Msipa feared that Minister of Lands,

Agriculture and Resettlement Joseph Made made the decision to

seize the Midlands properties on his own. Msipa stated that

he had already raised the issue of both the conservancy

status of the property as well as US citizen ownership with

Vice President Msika and other relevant ministers.

 

5. (SBU) In a recent meeting with Laboff, Ambassador Lucas

Tavaya, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment

and Tourism, argued that that “many” farmers had previously

chosen to turn productive farmland to the cultivation of

wildlife, to their personal benefit and the detriment of

Zimbabwe’s food security. Laboff was further advised that

“(private) conservancies were not recognized under Zimbabwe

law.” When pressed with the question of whether the GOZ

refused to recognize the existence of private conservancies

such as Malilangwe, Save Valley Conservancy, and Bubiana

Conservancy, Ambassador Tavaya backtracked and stated that

“most farms calling themselves conservancies did not meet the

definition of a conservancy.” It may be that this latest

sweep of Section 8 notices is merely intended to seize white

commercial farmland that had previously fallen through

procedural cracks. However, Ambassador Tavaya’s ambiguous

comments about the legal status of conservancies may indicate

that the GOZ is attempting to sidestep its previously stated

support of private conservancies in order to justify forced

acquisition. Against a concerted GOZ attempt to acquire

wildlife conservancies, simply calling a farm a “conservancy”

— regardless of the legal steps taken to dedicate such farms

to wildlife conservation — will no longer offer any

protection to landowners.

 

6. (SBU) At this point, it appears that the Section 8 notice

gives the Chamblisses ninety days to vacate their property —

forty-five days to wind up their “farming” operations, and a

further forty-five days to vacate their homestead. Although

they must vacate this property within the stipulated period,

the Chamblisses would retain, nonetheless, the right to

pursue their case through the courts. It is unclear whether

the intervention of Post or of Governor Msipa will help the

Chamblisses retain possession of their property.

SULLIVAN

 

(15 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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