By Mashudu Netsianda
The High Court has ordered Tsholotsho Rural District Council to suspend hunting permits to a company tasked to hunt elephants in Tsholotsho North to fund the construction of a football stadium, the brainchild of local MP Professor Jonathan Moyo.Prof Moyo is also Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister. The deal to fund the construction of the facility was negotiated when under fire Zanu-PF political commissar Cde Saviour Kasukuwere was still Minister of Water, Climate and Environment.
Cde Kasukuwere issued hunting quotas for 50 elephants to the Tsholotsho RDC to support the first stages of the construction of the stadium for Tsholotsho Football Club.
The ruling by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva follows an urgent chamber application by Matupula Hunters (Pvt) Ltd through lawyers, Job Sibanda and Associates, challenging the issuing of hunting permits to Lodzi Hunters to hunt elephants on a pice of land exclusively leased to it by Tsholotsho RDC.
Lodzi Hunters and Matupula Hunters are both legitimate holders of permits in the Tsholotsho North and Tsholotsho South areas respectively and have been locked in a dispute over the hunting rights of elephants in Tsholotsho North.
Matupula Hunters (Private) Limited successfully sought, and was granted, a court order barring Lodzi Hunters from conducting elephant hunting in the area for the purpose of raising funds for the construction of the football stadium.
Justice Takuva ruled that Matupula Hunters had established that it has prima facie rights that need to be protected and subsequently issued an order interdicting Tsholotsho RDC from issuing any hunting permits for the area covered by Matupula Hunters.
The order also suspended the hunting permits already issued to Lodzi Hunters.
“In casu, it is undisputed that these agreements are of a commercial nature in the sense that all parties are in it for financial gain or benefit,” said Justice Takuva.
“It is common cause that despite the existence of an agreement with applicant in respect of safaris for Tsholotsho North, the first respondent (council) has entered into another agreement with second respondent (Lodzi Hunters) who was supposed to hunt only in Tsholotsho South to conduct safaris in applicant’s (Matupula Hunters) concession area, namely Tsholotsho North.”
Justice Takuva said in the event that Tsholotsho RDC had already issued the permit to Lodzi Hunters prior to the court order, the safari company should stop operations forthwith.
“It is not clear how first respondent expects the second respondent and the applicant to operate simultaneously in the same geographical area,” he said. “What is clear is that on being faced with these facts, a reasonable man might entertain a reasonable apprehension of injury.
“Accordingly, it is ordered that Tsholotsho RDC is interdicted from issuing to Lodzi Hunters any hunting permits over the land exclusively leased by applicant from first respondent in Tsholotsho North in terms of the agreement.”
Matupula Hunters contested the decision by Tsholotsho RDC to give Lodzi Hunters a permit to conduct elephant hunting in the same area in which it has exclusive safari rights for five years.
This caused friction between the two companies as Lodzi Hunters, which has the right to hunt in Tsholotsho South, encroached into the northern side, where it claims it is entitled to do so for the purpose of fulfilling the elephant quota for the stadium.
In 2013, Matupula Hunters entered into a five-year agreement with Tsholotsho RDC that ran from January 2013 to December 2018.
The contract gives the firm “the sole and exclusive rights to conduct all safaris” within the Tsholotsho North Concession. The council has a similar agreement with Lodzi covering Tsholotsho South.
However, in 2015, when the need to fund the construction of the stadium arose, the local authority decided to give Lodzi permission to hunt in the whole of Tsholotsho district, including the area exclusive to Matupula Hunters.
Matupula Hunters engaged the council to settle the matter to no avail, as the local authority, together with Lodzi insisted that they had the right to bring hunters to shoot elephants in Tsholotsho North.