SW Radio Africa (London)

22 August 2012

Zimbabwe: Masvingo Officials Invade Save Valley Conservancy

ZANU PF has kicked its campaign to seize control of the Save Valley Conservancy into high gear, after officials in Masvingo invaded the area on Wednesday morning.

Masvingo Governor Titus Maluleke, Chiredzi South MP Aaron Baloyi and a gang of thugs, stormed into a technical meeting between the Conservancy chiefs and National Parks that was taking place on the Conservancy grounds on Wednesday. The group is understood to have bullied its way in and insisted it was taking over control of Save Valley.

Conservancy Vice Chair Wilfried Pabst told SW Radio Africa that the group "screamed and hollered," and attempted to strip him and the Chair of the Conservancy of their positions.

"They voted me down as Vice Chair. Our Chairman was also voted down. Of course it is all ridiculous and there is no legal base for it. But either way they have jambanja'd the Save Valley," Pabst said.

The Masvingo Governor and MP Baloyi have since last year been spearheading a ZANU PF led campaign of 'indigenisation' in the province, dubbed the 'Masvingo Initiative', with the intention of grabbing land. Also included in this group is Higher and Tertiary Education minister Stan Mudenge, former governor Josiah Hungwe, and former MP Enock Porusingazi.

Army boss Engelbert Rugeje, National Parks head Vitalis Chadenga, and former MP and war vet Shuvai Mahofa, were last year also fingered by whistleblower website WikiLeaks as being part of the Masvingo land grab. The 'Initiative' insisted it was installing local Zimbabweans as land owners as part of the country indigenisation campaign.

Maluleke, Mudenge and Mahofa are now also among a group of ZANU PF officials recently granted hunting licences in the Conservancy by Chadenga. Conservationists have warned that this could have a devastating effect on the wildlife and hunting sector. The authorities have also cancelled the operations of current hunting and safari groups.

The Save Valley Conservancy has called the handover of the new hunting licenses a 'criminal act' that has nothing to do with genuine indigenisation efforts. Pabst explained on Wednesday that a number of proposals, aimed at empowering local Zimbabweans and genuinely indigenising the Conservancy have been drafted, but the authorities have never engaged with them.

He added that the same group that has now been granted hunting licences, were previously approached about joint venture options in the Conservancy, but they insisted they wanted "cash on the table."

"Two thirds of the Conservancy is indigenised but the problem is the black indigenous partners we have are not the card carrying members that these Masvingo officials would like," Pabst explained.

He added that there is no legislation allowing the take over of Zimbabwe's conservancies, because the areas "are not subject to indigenisation or land reform policies." He said the activity at Save Valley is illegal and a serious threat to the country's economic future.

"We, as foreign investors, cannot be involved in a country's tourism or wildlife efforts if at some time rogue people are coming and taking our assets," Pabst said.

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