7 September 2012

Zimbabwe: Seizure of Save Valley Conservancy, Time to Draw the Line


The goings on at Save Valley Conservancy are disturbing and it is time the coalition government drew the line before the country loses its endangered species and direct foreign investment

The GNU should know that the whole world is watching how it is trying to restore order and sanity at Save Valley. Any half measures will be catastrophic.

If the coalition government allows partisan politics to take the centre stage, then the crisis is likely to worsen with far reaching implications.

Of major concern is the dithering by the coalition government on stamping its authority to protect wildlife, livelihoods for thousands of families and indeed local and foreign investors in the Save Valley Conservancy area.

It is disappointing to watch people aligned to political groupings fighting each other for the control of natural resources and meat for braais at their weddings.

Curiously, the regime suddenly wants to indigenise Save Valley Conservancy (SVC) when the Conservancy started a more meaningful form of indigenisation well, well before Kasukuwere drafted his destructive regulations.

Formed 11 years after independence with the approval of the Zimbabwe Government, National Parks, assisted by the WWF and Beit Trust, the Save Valley Conservancy says, "Opportunities to invest were open to all and in fact the government took the opportunity through Arda (a parastatal)."

SVC also notes that an IFC Loan, approved and supported by Government, was negotiated in order to purchase wildlife as a severe drought meant that there were no cattle or animals left in the area.

Community Trust Predated Indigenisation Laws

The Save Valley Conservancy goes on to disclose that it has "long held the view that indigenisation would take the form of community involvement and benefit."

As a result they formed the Save Valley Conservancy Community Trust, which incorporates five neighbouring Rural District Councils. "This was achieved between 1996 and 1998 predating the current indigenisation act by some years," says the SVC on its website.

Continued engagement with authorities

It is arguable that the Conservancy's own indigenisation drive from 2006 to 2009 aimed at increasing benefit to neighbouring communities and increasing indigenous shareholding appears to have been was frustrated by self-seeking regime loyalists.

What happened?

It is very distressing to note that Conservancy supplied the "requested documentation" to the Ministry "on many occasions without any formal or directional feedback being supplied by either Ministry of Environment or National Parks."

Steering Committee

Again as the regime's real intentions appear to have been exposed when a steering committee was formed to guide the legal, accounting and business processes that would be necessary to ensure smooth transactions, the whole thing ran aground in July 2011.

What happened?

What is shocking is that "would-be partners stated they had no intention of investing but wanted "cash on the table" according to the Conservancy.

In typical Zanu-pf vindictive style, hunting safaris throughout the Conservancy were cancelled by the authorities, while hunting quotas for properties in the Conservancy have since been issued to the would-be partners from Masvingo.

Reports say the ban deprived the Save Valley Conservancy of vital income. However, the Save Valley Conservancy and its members remain "committed to proactively seeking realistic and viable solutions to the situation."

This talk of indigenisation is so upsetting when it is reported that Robert Mugabe and his cronies own 5million hectares of land that was seized from white commercial farmers since 2000 (The Zimbabwean 01/12.10).

The seizure of Save Valley Conservancy by Robert Mugabe's loyalists will have serious implications for Zimbabwe and wildlife.

Serious Implications

Already the world is abuzz with news of the destruction of wildlife and the environment with the European Union threatening to stop funding the forthcoming UNWTO general assembly.

Surely, such a drastic move by the EU would be collective punishment for the sins of a few Zanu-pf loyalists. Instead the EU should be more selective and slap the culprits with targeted restrictive measures.

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri is a Political Analyst.

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