Concern for Chiredzi farmers as invaders intensify intimidation

There is growing concern for the safety and wellbeing of a farming family in Chiredzi, after a week of worsening threats and intimidation by a gang of would-be land invaders.

Theresa Warth of Wasara Ranch has faced a rapidly deteriorating situation all week, which culminated in real fear on Friday morning when the group of invaders upped their threatening tactics.

It’s understood that Theresa was alone on the property at the time when the gang started trying to break through a gate and onto the land, with more and more people swelling the numbers of the group. Many of the invaders are believed to be poachers trying to retaliate against the Warth’s anti-poaching patrols. By midmorning about 50 people were shouting and rattling the main gate at the entrance to Wasara Ranch, yelling threats and throwing sand at Theresa.

Theresa has apparently tried calling the local police a number of times this week, with no response, and eventually an SOS alert was sent in the morning using email, Facebook and Twitter.

Eventually cops were dispatched to the property but coincidentally, they arrived not long after the land invaders had backed off, prompting suspicions that the gang had been tipped off about the arrival of the ‘law’.

Theresa and her husband Gary have faced years of intimidation and violence, and most of their Wasara Ranch has been taken over. Their remaining piece of land is now known more for being a refuge for the area’s unprotected wildlife that have also faced threats and intimidation from land invaders. Many of the animals at Wasara have been slaughtered over the years in what is widely believed to be a deliberate attack against the Warths. This includes the cruel killings of two tame giraffe that died after getting caught in snares deliberately set high in the surrounding trees.

The onslaught of land invaders in Chiredzi meanwhile has spread into the Chiredzi River Conservancy, and hundreds of animals have been killed there.

Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) told SW Radio Africa on Friday that the situation is very serious, and there is no authority to stop the “chaos.”

“I have tabled this in parliament, I have written letters to the Prime Minister and letters to the Minister for Environment, Francis Nhema, and nothing is being done. More and more invaders are coming into the area, killing the animals to make way for farming, and it’s just so serious,” Rodrigues said.

He explained how the situation at the Warth property is an ongoing issue that no law enforcement official has tried to sort out.

“There is no authority to enforce the rule of law. So nothing gets done and people like Theresa have no assistance when they really need it,” Rodrigues said.

He also warned that the invasions are having a detrimental effect on the wildlife in the area.

“There are only about 700 animals in Chiredzi now. About 30 of the elephant there have been killed in two months. And all the others are just shot on sight. It’s crazy. It’s chaos,” Rodrigues said. –SW Radio Africa News

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