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.
Viewing cable 03HARARE301, ANOTHER AMCIT PROPERTY FORMALLY SEIZED
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
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: N/A
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
¶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.