Disgruntled Matobo Ward 16 community members are demanding back their land which was allegedly taken from them during the colonial rule when Matobo National Park boundary was extended.
The community indicated that the conflict that exists between them and the Park authorities was a result of the extension of the Park in the 1960s to encroach their ancestral land leaving them with less grazing land.
Large chunks of the land in Matobo Ward 16 is covered by mountains, rocks and the famous Matobo National Park. The Ward has a population of 4135 people and over 5000 cattle.
Speaking at a public meeting held in Silozwi recently, community members said they wanted their land back from the National Park which they claimed was taken without their consent.
“We are not saying we don’t want the Park; we are not even fighting with the Park authorities. What we want is our land which was taken when the Park boundary was extended,” said village head Edward Mabhena from Shazhabuhwa village. “We know where the initial boundary was, we were there when they moved the fence to our villages, it was even there in their books.”
The community has also complained about the current Park policies that have seen cattle getting impounded for grazing within the boundaries of the Park.
“As a result of the extension, people were left with less grazing land. Some illegally drive they cattle to graze within the park boundary. However, when they are caught, they are impounded and the owner pays $2 per animal for their release,” said village head Logen Dube from Lushumbe village.
The community said such Park policies have pushed them to demand was is rightfully theirs.
The local leadership is alleged to have tried to engage Park authorities over the issue but to no avail. They have also tried to negotiate with them to allow cattle to graze close to the boundary but they have refused.
The community was given a farm by the government for grazing for their cattle but they have alleged that the farm is too small for over 5000 cattle that exist in the Ward.