A safari lodge about 18 miles (30 kilometres) west of Harare reopened Sunday after being sealed off by more than 200 militants since Friday, said owner Gary Stafford. The seven-chalet Kuimba Shiri lodge is a popular getaway for locals, foreign visitors, diplomats and U.N. staff.
Stafford said the leaders of the militants took an inventory of the lodge’s belongings and “there was no violence or looting.” They told him they were taking stock and evaluating lakeside properties under Mugabe’s policy of empowerment that calls for 51 per cent ownership of businesses by blacks.
One visiting couple was holed up in his lodge for a day and “we weren’t allowed any guests,” Stafford said.Boating clubs and a mobile home park were also visited by militants, some armed with sticks and chanting slogans of Mugabe’s party.
Property owners said they called the tourism and environment ministries to seek their intervention.The militants’ moves coincided with the launch Friday of a new campaign by Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi who branded Zimbabwe as “the world of wonders,” during a convention in Spain.
After collapsing during a decade of political and economic turmoil, tourist visits have crept upward since 2009 when a coalition government between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, abandoned the hyperinflationary local currency and adopted the U.S. dollar as legal tender.
Witnesses said militants occupied a mobile home at one campsite after saying it could stay open as long as no property or utensils were removed. The militants, who took nothing and bought their own food from a nearby store, completed an inventory of items at the site and told workers they wanted impoverished nearby communities to have a share in the lake’s leisure assets.
They indicated more than 20 clubs and holiday facilities were being assessed on the shores of Lake Chivero, a dam five miles (8 kilometres) in length bordered by a wildlife preserve that serves as Harare’s main water supply reservoir.