30 April 2009

Zimbabwe: Last Bid to Relocate 700 Chitsa Families

Masvingo — THE Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has engaged the Masvingo political leadership in a last-ditch attempt to have the 700 Chitsa families relocated from Gonarezhou National Park.

The authority wants the families moved out to pave way for the eventual creation of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park ahead of next year's World Cup soccer finals to be hosted by South Africa.

It has since emerged that some of the families who moved into the park at the height of farm occupations were in possession of valid offer letters from Government.

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park will become arguably the world's biggest wildlife sanctuary as it will bring together Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou, Mozambique's Limpopo National Park and South Africa's Kruger National Park.

In an interview, Parks director general Dr Morris Mtsambiwa said they would engage the provincial political leadership to resolve the long-running problem of relocating the families.

Dr Mtsambiwa said the offer letters would prove a major hurdle in the latest effort to relocate the families.

"We are pressing ahead with our plans to relocate the families from Gonarezhou and we are now engaging the Masvingo political leadership to work out how best we can move the families because we have now established that some of the families were in possession of offer letters to stay on the land, but we will try to solve that problem," said Dr Mtsambiwa.

He said the authority was working on the Gonarezhou National Park management plan that would list the potential benefits the local tourism industry could accrue from the giant park in view of the soccer extravaganza coming to Africa for the first time next year.

Dr Mtsambiwa said the plan was being worked out between Parks and stakeholders from the private sector.

It will look at how best the entire Lowveld region could take advantage of the envisaged tourism boom ahead of and during the World Cup soccer finals.

The relocation of Chitsa people from Gonarezhou was also expected to make it easier to integrate the park into the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

The Chitsa families have been resisting relocation from Gonarezhou Park, arguing that the land belonged to their ancestors who were dispossessed by colonial settlers.

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