4 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Germany Minister Concerned Over Save Valley Conservancy

VISITING Germany Economic and Co-operation Minister Mr Dirk Niebel yesterday met Vice President Joice Mujuru where he raised concerns about the safety of Berlin's investments in Zimbabwe, principally the Save Valley Conservancy.

Mr Niebel also met Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Finance Minister Tendai Biti and conveyed the same message on investment. Save Valley Conservancy has come under the spotlight in view of the country's indigenisation policies with villagers living around the area pushing for enforcement of the law to the conservancies.

However, the Zanu-PF Politburo had taken a position that it should be converted to a national park. Sources close to the VP's meeting with the German Minister told The Herald that Mr Niebel said his government wanted to fund relocation of animals from the Save Valley Conservancy to the Gonarezhou Trans Frontier Park. By doing so, the Germans wanted to be part of the frontier park. It is understood that VP Mujuru emphasised to Mr Niebel that Germany must not be worried about the animals but instead improve the livelihoods of black Zimbabweans living around the conservancy who do not seem to matter in the German scheme of things.

She said these people have been under sanctions since 2000 and struggling to put irrigation schemes in a delicate ecological region such as Masvingo.

"VP Mujuru emphasised the need to fund the development of landless communities adjacent to Save Valley so that they have a viable livelihood thereby bringing a balance to the pursuits of the conservancy and the villagers.

"He (Mr Niebel) was told that until the livelihoods of landless communities are stabilised the prospects of the conservancy remain dim," said the source.

Prior to his visit Mr Niebel told the Germany press that he did not wish to meet President Mugabe.

Reacting to his comments, Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba said Mr Niebel was a mere minister who is not the Head of State's equivalent.

"He is not the equivalent of the President but he is also a guest in the country. It is not quite mannerly to make those statements about the Head of State of Zimbabwe.

"Anyway he has met the President's deputy which does not quite uphold his boycott position, does it?

"Maybe the real significance of the minister's visit does not lie in who he has met or in who he does not want to meet. It lies in that he has visited the country after such a long self-imposed ban," he said.

Mr Charamba said the Germans were not doing Zimbabwe a favour by visiting the country after such a long time.

It is understood that Germany had mining interests in Zimbabwe and it was not happy to be a mere bystander in the lucrative diamond business booming in Zimbabwe.

After meeting VP Mujuru, Mr Niebel said he told journalists that he requested for Government approval to allow observers outside Sadc and the African Union to be part of next year's election observers. This is despite that Zimbabwe is not being invited to observe elections in European countries.

"We asked Government to allow international observers not only those from Sadc and the African Union for next year's elections," he said.

"The Vice President told us that Government was still discussing that issue."

However, Mr Charamba said: "Parties to the political dispute in Zimbabwe can not observe elections. They have taken a partisan position."

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