BY SILAS NKALA
A SAFARI and mining firm running the Mujingwe Conservancy in Mwenezi has taken President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Defence Forces Commander, Philip Velario Sibanda, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri and 12 others to court over the deployment of soldiers into the conservancy.
Apatron Mining (Pvt) Ltd, through Ncube and Partners, filed an application for declaratur at the Bulawayo High Court on January 29.
The application cited Mnangagwa, Sibanda, Muchinguri, Macduff Madega — the Sheriff of Zimbabwe, Tonderai Tsunga — additional Sheriff Masvingo province, Joseph Kudumba, Elliot Muswita, Finger Tapera, Headman Mhizha, Peter Mudhumo, Rafael Shoko, Solomon Ndlovu, Haigwari Safari (Pvt) Ltd, director for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) and Environment minister Mangaliso Ndlovu as respondents.
In his founding affidavit, Vusumuzi Osfael Mazibuko submitted that he was the managing director of Apatron Mining (Pvt) Ltd.
“This is an application to declare unconstitutional and unlawful, the entry into and continuing presence of armed soldiers at Mujingwe Conservancy Mwenezi. Consequential relief is sought to the effect that the soldiers be ordered to vacate the conservancy,” Mazibuko
“The factual background is that on October 11, 2016, the applicant received an offer letter to enter into a joint venture management of Mujingwe Conservancy with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. The offer letter was signed by the board chairman on October 11 and by the permanent secretary on October 12, 2016. It was, thereafter, approved by the 15th respondent (Environment minister).”
He said on October 12, he received a letter from the ZimParks commercial director, indicating that the partnership agreement was being drafted and would be forwarded in due course.
“Meanwhile, we moved onto the site and commenced work as per the agreement of the parties. The joint venture agreement was for a period of 25 years running from 2017 to 2043. This, therefore, means that the joint venture agreement is still extant. On July 28, 2019, the sixth to 13th respondents obtained an order in default against a non-existent entity known as Vusimuzi Masibuko trading as Apatron Mining Fort Rixon. As is evident from the face of the order, the applicant was never a party to those proceedings.”
He said, however, that order was used to issue a writ of his ejection from the conservancy.
“The applicant was ejected from the conservancy on December 11, 2019. When executing his duties, the fifth respondent (Tonderai Tsunga additional Sheriff Masvingo province) enlisted the services of 10 soldiers, five (of them) were armed with AK-47 rifles. The soldiers wreaked havoc and damaged property. The applicant instructed legal practitioners to lodge a complaint with fourth respondent (Madega, the Sheriff of Zimbabwe), which was copied to the secretary of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and to the respondents and their lawyers.
Mazibuko said on December 23, he went to the conservancy, where he saw an armed soldier who told him that his other four colleagues were patrolling the conservancy.
He said his lawyers again wrote to (the Sheriff) asking for a response to their previous letter.
He added that their letter also indicated that two civilian members of the community had been shot by the soldiers, but the Sheriff did not respond.
Mazibuko said despite complaints to the authorities, the soldiers have remained put in the conservancy.
He said his interests and rights to the occupation of the conservancy had been grossly violated.
The respondents are yet to file their response to the application.