NATIONAL Prosecuting Authority refused to prosecute 12 Leopard Rock Hotel (LRH) employees who had been arrested for slashing crops that had been illegally planted on the iconic tourist facility’s property until the illegal settlers prove their legal claim to the land.
Police had to release them after detaining them for 36 hours following the snub by government lawyers.
“All my employees have been released after 36 hours in jail without charge unless the accusers can prove they are legally allowed on the land,” LRH-owner Samir Shasha said in an interview.
Manicaland provincial police spokesperson Inspector Tavhiringwa Kakohwa had not responded by the time of going to press.
The episode, beyond embarrassing the security institution, also exposed the political hand behind the squatters and the police’s inaction in clearing them.
One of the hotel officials – Wilfred Munetsi said one of the police details that rode roughshod into the hotel premises to arrest the employees said they were under instruction from senior Zanu PF politicians who are eyeing the hotel.
The cop also claimed extrajudicial authority bragging that they did not need an arrest warrant to burst into private properties to effect arrests as they were covered by powerful politicians.
“He said don’t fire your guard I’m the one who opened the gate with one of my officers. We are allowed to do what we want even if I don’t have a warrant of arrest. Nobody can stop us to enter.
“He went on to say that Leopard Rock didn’t know that it was fighting with politicians. When they phoned us that you were slashing crops we then came to arrest whoever was doing that. The squatters had trapped you, they knew you will come and slash their crop and reported their case to politicians,” Munetsi said.
Shasha said they now knew which politicians were behind the illegal settlers who are now resorting to stealing perimeter fence and pole which was being erected to protect the property.
Shasha wants police to act on their complaints as well. “The illegal settlers have resorted to stealing the fence and the poles and we await their arrest and equal treatment to our innocent workers,” he said.
With 70 percent of LRH owned by a Netherlands company he said he was contemplating approaching the European country’s ambassador to Zimbabwe over the issue.
Government later issued a public statement acknowledging the land invasions and pledging to restore order at the property.
Government urged the squatters to vacate the property and avoid the public humiliation of evictions in a statement issued by government spokesperson Nick Mangwana.
“It has come to the attention of government that there is some illegal land invasion around part of Leopard Rock Hotel property. This has caused some disruption of business in addition to causing environmental damage.
“Law enforcement services have been made of this lawlessness and are finalising plans to restore law and order.
“Those who have taken illegal occupation on this land are advised to move out, as forced removal is undignified.”