5 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Cabinet Tackles Save Saga

CABINET has set up a ministerial committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to resolve the Save Valley Conservancy saga after a ZANU-PF panel previously tasked to deal with the matter failed to tackle the issue.

The Mutambara-led committee, whose other members include ministers Ignatius Chombo, Francis Nhema, Walter Mzembi, Saviour Kasukuwere, Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone, is already at work, sources said.

Problems at the world renowned animal sanctuary were triggered by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management's decision to award hunting permits to 37 ZANU-PF members and top army officials.

Sources this week said President Robert Mugabe was anxious to have sanity back at the conservancy after the conflict between original white owners and the new black partners led to poaching.

In an interview yesterday, Nhema, who heads the Ministry of Environment, confirmed the setting up of the ministerial committee.

"Cabinet decided to set up the committee to ensure the protection of wildlife and how best to deal with the matter," said Nhema.

He added that the committee had already met a number of stakeholders, including chiefs.

Asked why the ZANU-PF panel failed, Nhema said it was never really constituted as it was only a proposal.

Ten chiefs from Save Valley on Monday met the Cabinet committee and made submissions on the way forward.

The chiefs' spokesperson, Denford Masiya, said the traditional leaders were against parcelling out the sanctuary to individuals.

"The chiefs said their preferred option for ownership is current operator and the community. Chiefs do not want to benefit as individuals but as communities and those who have been given permits must go back to communities and benefit as communities," said Masiya.

Nhema is said to have proposed that the conservancy be turned into a State-owned reserve run by the Parks and Wildlife Authority. However, the move was said to have been fiercely opposed by Tourism Minister Mzembi who argued that it would be tantamount to expropriation of properties that need to be run as a business.

Mzembi is said to have argued that what was needed was to ensure that the transformation of the conservancy reflects broad-based economic empowerment, with his push for a ministerial committee receiving cross-party support.

The appointment of the ministerial committee followed lobbying by Save conservancy farmers, who were op-posed to the imposition of new partners in a process they deemed to have lacked transparency, and failure by the ZANU-PF appointed committee to resolve the matter.

The ZANU-PF committee membership consisted of Chombo, Nhema, Mzembi and Herbert Murerwa and its major handicap was that its decisions would have lacked force at law.

Mzembi could not be reached for comment.

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