TOP Zanu PF politicians are raking in millions of dollars from illegally sub-leasing hunting concessions, camps and safari lodges on farms they grabbed under the land reform programme.
Highly placed sources in the safari business said Zanu PF bigwigs who were allocated safari farms with lodges and camps, proceeded to obtain hunting concessions and are now raking in millions of dollars from renting out infrastructure to established operators.
The Safari business brings in huge sums of money, mostly hard currency, paid by professional hunters and tourists.
In one such case, Tourism minister Francis Nhema and President Robert Mugabe’s nephew, John Mapondera, were reported to have descended on Chikweya Camp and Forthergill Island in Kariba claiming to be the new owners.
Speculation is rife that Nhema and Mapondera, who already have other properties through the land reform programme, targeted the camps for no other reasons other than leasing them out. Camp operators are in the process of filing papers in the High Court seeking an interdict against the takeover. The court papers cite Nhema as the first respondent.
The camps, which fall within the National Parks area, have been making up to US$200 000 each year through bookings by professional hunters and other tourists.
Contacted for comment, Nhema scoffed at the allegations saying there was no way he could be eyeing the camps, which his ministry advertised.
“My ministry through National Parks floated a tender because the lease for the camps expired in December last year,” Nhema said. “Current operators had an option to renew their leases but they didn’t, forcing us to advertise them.”
Nhema said he had no interest in personally owning the camps.
Last month Zanu PF chairman John Nkomo dragged his farm neighbour, Langton Masunda, to court over the control of Jijima Lodge in the Gwayi River Conservancy.
Nkomo claimed the lodge falls within Lugo Ranch, which was allocated to him, whilst Masunda, who occupies Volunteer Farm 47,48, and 49 situated in the same area, has occupied the same lodge.
Nkomo is demanding more than $5 billion for the loss of business for the period which Masunda has been occupying the lodge and occupational damages or rentals suffered pegged at $50 million per month.
In 2003 Zanu PF chefs, including the late Enos Chikowore, Kumbirai Kangai, Patrick Nyaruwata, Philip Chiyangwa, Chris Kuruneri and a number of A2 farmers, were accused of leasing rented farms to FSI Agricom for huge sums of money.
They were demanding $50 million upfront before FSI could start operations on the farm. They also signed five-year contracts stipulating that further annual payments were supposed to be on a profit-sharing basis between the landowner and the land-user, after all the costs have been deducted.
Where the produce was exported, the landowner would receive 5% of the gross income in foreign currency. Chikowore leased out Gombera farm, Kangai Paarl, Kuruneri Escortvale, and Chiyangwa rented out Old Citrus in Chinhoyi.
The scheme only ceased when then Special Affairs minister and land implementation committee chairman John Nkomo announced that it was illegal for land beneficiaries to lease farms to third parties.