Family of US food dynasty win EC game farm battle

Luxury game lodge Kichaka has lost a vital court battle to continue its access to land owned by the family that founded the American Heinz ketchup and baked beans dynasty.

From Tuesday next week guests staying at the lavish Kichaka Lodge face the inconvenience of having to circumnavigate a massive portion of land bought by the Heinz-Youness family if it wants to game view on the rest of the conservancy.

Kichaka is part of the massive Bayeti Game Conservancy near Grahamstown and in future guests will have to drive along the busy N2, which Kichaka’s Tim Fenner has said detracts from the idea of being on a game farm in Africa.

In terms of the Bayeti conservancy agreement those who own various portions of land in the 8000 hectare conservancy – with its big-five drawcard – have traversal rights over each other’s land.

This means Lalibela and various other landowners, including Hillside Safaris – better known as Kichaka – have the right to view game across the conservancy without restrictions.

But, the farm, Lilyvalley, which was last year bought by the company Afrika Plains, owned by affluent couple Amre Youness and Caroline Heinz-Youness, lies between the outlying Kichaka lodge and the rest of the conservancy.

Kichaka and its guests had for more than a decade traversed Lilyvalley during game drives with the blessing of the then landowner, another wealthy American, Gene Bishop.

Kichaka resorted to the high court for an urgent interdict after being told some six months ago by Afrika Plains that it would no longer be allowed to cross Lilyvalley as of August 1.

Fenner maintained in court papers that Lilyvalley was always part of the conservancy and could not pull out at this stage just because ownership of the farm had changed hands.

But Judge Judith Roberson disagreed.

In a hard-hitting judgment she said Fenner had failed on almost every level in his application for an urgent interdict that would stop Afrika Plains from preventing his access to the land.

She said the urgency had been self-created as Fenner had known since a court case in 2009 that Lilyvalley was not part of the conservancy.

Roberson awarded punitive legal costs against Fenner for failing to bring the 2009 court case to the court’s attention.

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