19 September 2012

Zimbabwe: EU Applauds Mugabe

THE European Union (EU) has applauded President Robert Mugabe's intervention in the partisan parcelling out of hunting licences at the controversy-riddled Save Valley Conservancy after he ordered an internal probe into the scandal.

ZANU-PF bigwigs, top military officers and civil servants were recently allocated lucrative hunting concessions at Save Valley Conser-vancy at the expense of local communities and in disregard of a recommendation by Parlia-ment that any black empowerment initiative in the conservancies should include locals.

Contrary to recommendations by Parliament, only the ZANU-PF elite were cherry-picked for the hunting concessions.

Miffed by the corruption around the awarding of the hunting concessions, President Mugabe last week ordered his Politburo to investigate the scandal.

As a result, the party's supreme decision making body in between congresses set-up a technical committee to look into the issue threatening Zimbabwe's co-hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly in August next year.

The committee consists of Local Govern-ment, Rural and Urban Development Minister, Ignatius Chombo; Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement Minister Hebert Murerwa; Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi and Environment and Natural Reso-urces Management Minister Francis Nhema.

ZANU-PF, according to sources, is mulling turning Save Conservancy as well as other conservancies into national parks to put the matter to rest.

Carl Skau, the acting head of EU Delegation to Zimbabwe, said the European bloc has been encouraged by moves to arrest the chaos at Save Valley Conservancy.

"We welcome that the President (Mugabe) has sent a strong message on the need to respect the rule of law and to preserve the biodiversity in the Save Valley Conservancy," said Skau.

"We are hopeful that National Parks will implement the decision as mandated, and the President's urge for respecting the rule of law, in particular in the face of elections, has been heard loud and clear," he said.

The EU diplomat hinted that the Save Valley Conservancy saga could indeed have indirect implications for the successful hosting of the UNWTO considering the negative perception generated on Zimbabwe as a tourist destination.

Skau said the EU's concern about the Save Valley Conservancy arose due to the fact that preserving the unique biodiversity in the Save Valley is an environmental imperative.

"The Save Valley conservancies are important drivers for local development and for growth in the tourism sector. The recent incidents are not helpful for the promotion of Zimbabwe as a tourist destination in general, and for hunting tourism in particular," he said, adding that the current policy discord in government on the issue seemed to have political connotations.

"Peace and political stability will be critical to build the conditions necessary for credible and democratic elections. Respect for the rule of law is a fundamental principle for the EU. Respecting Bilateral Investment and Promotion Agreements is critical to generate confidence for foreign investments," added Skau.

The controversy around Save Valley Conservancy has soured relations between Tourism and Environment ministries.

Tourism Minister Mzembi told The Financial Gazette this week that the issue had been resolved amicably after the intervention of President Mugabe.

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