Safari operators enraged as Zanu-PF rewards the faithful with stolen share of lucrative trade

Senior officials in Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party are forcing safari operators to give up the profits from lucrative ranches in a ruthless takeover of Zimbabwe's foreign-owned properties reminiscent of the regime's previous seizure of white farmers' land.

The officials include a provincial governor, Titus Maluleke, and the Environment Minister and UN appointee, Francis Nhema. They have compelled safari operators in the Save Valley Conservancy, a thriving wildlife reserve, to cede shareholdings from 50 to 80 per cent to allies in the police and military, as well as party apparatchiks. One investor described the confiscation as a "mafia-style takeover". Mr Mugabe is thought to have been told of the matter last week, when it was also discussed in a cabinet meeting.

The moves are a further example of the Mugabe regime's continued primacy in Zimbabwe, and underline the difficulties Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change has faced in its attempts at reform. The country's wildlife lobby has warned that the property grab could render futile the attempts by the government of national unity to revive tourism, an ailing industry that Zimbabwe desperately needs to encourage as part of its attempt at economic revival.

The investors include Italian, American, Dutch and South African nationals. Mr Nhema convened a meeting with safari operators last week and warned them against resisting the move.

The news first came to light in an investigation by The Zimbabwean, a UK-based newspaper for Zimbabweans in exile. One foreign safari operator who had been forced to cede his shareholding told the newspaper: "If you attack wildlife, you are attacking your national herd, you are attacking your national heritage. When you attack the properties of foreigners, you are endangering the recovery of the country as a whole."

Among many examples is that of Governor Maluleke, who pulled up at Humani Safari Ranch and told the owner that his new partners were now demanding their share. Major General Engelbert Rugeje, the Chief of Staff of the Zimbabwe National Army, and Ailess Baloyi, a Zanu-PF MP, have since taken over a 50 per cent shareholding without any compensation. One of the operators who has been forced to share his company said: "This is obviously payoff for the [Zanu-PF] guys that have been faithful, all the guys who think they can muscle their way in."

The moves have been defended by Mr Nhema, who is also chairman of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, as redistribution of property to its rightful owners. But while the operators acknowledge that their businesses are profitable, they point to the heavy investments they have had to make. One of the operators has pumped US$8m into his conservancy.

Another safari operator described the moment when Mr Nhema bluntly told him that he was going to have to give up a share of his business. "He just gets you into a room and says, 'Meet your partners'," he said. "You say, 'What do you mean? I don't need partners.' And they say 'I told you, you are going to get new partners. You sort it out yourself.'"

There has been particular incredulity among the victims – who are reluctant to be named for fear of drawing reprisals – at the role played by Mr Nhema, given his position with the UN. "You would think he would be the one policing this," one said.

Mr Nhema insisted that the actions were not aimed at rewarding allies. "We have always maintained that blacks have been sidelined from the lucrative business of running conservancies," he said. Asked to comment on the beneficiaries, the Environment Minister said they were the only people on the waiting list.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments