MASITANE Farm in Ward 23 Matobo was like any other ordinary farm before 2010, its very proud manager, says.
A farmhouse, a windmill, wild animals and cattle kraal is all that made the farm.
It is situated about 45km from Bulawayo, and 2km from the Bulawayo-Plumtree Highway.
Five years down the line, the farm has undergone a rapid transformation and has been turned into a safari lodge — Phomolo.
But it has not been without trouble for farm-owner former High Court judge Justice Maphios Cheda, as villagers were up in arms with him after he was allocated the land in late 2010.
Villagers in resettlement areas surrounding the farm claim Cheda encroached into their village and took part of their land before fencing them off from their main supply dam.
Villagers allege Cheda destroyed recreational facilities and closed an area designated for burial and other facilities, as he went ahead to construct his “paradise” for tourists.
“That is not true,” Leeman Siziba, the farm manager, said firmly.
“Cheda occupied land as specified in the offer letter.”
Siziba said the farm was turned into a safari lodge on realising that it was a “sleeping tourist attraction”, as it boasts a wide variety of wild animals and beautiful scenery.
Two chalets have so far been built on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding villages and the beautiful landscape.
“We realised that this place could easily be turned into a tourist attraction,” Siziba continued.
“There is, for example, wildlife and there was need to protect it from poachers and from villages, hence we fenced off the area.
“After fencing off the area, we then started building chalets to accommodate visiting tourists.”
He added that the lodge was ideally located for any visitors travelling on the Bulawayo-Plumtree Highway to take a relaxing rest.
“Construction of the chalets began in 2013,” Siziba explained.
“Funds permitting, we could have built many chalets to accommodate the many visitors that want to come and relax in this area.
“We intend to build about 20 chalets.
“A wedding venue is being constructed and couples can also honeymoon here after their big day. In fact, one of our chalets is for those on honeymoon.”
Presently, there is no dining hall or restaurant at the lodge and visitors have to bring their own meals to cook, and beverages to drink.
“Its’ self-catering at the moment,” Siziba said.
“Going forward, there will be a dining hall and other facilities like a mini bar to cater for visitors.
“A lot of cash was invested in this project.
“We had to construct roads from the highway leading to the lodge, built bridges, fenced it off to protect game from poachers, constructed chalets and brought electricity.”
The manager said although there were still clashes with villagers over boundaries, relations had somewhat improved, thanks to employment creation, as construction of the lodge swung into full gear.
“We are a fairly young lodge, but we have so far managed to woo tourists from other countries to come to this place,” he said.
“We, however, face problems of game poachers from nearby villages.”