17 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Save Valley Conservancy to Be Indigenised

THE long-running saga in Zimbabwe's Save Conservancy, widely regarded as the richest and largest private wildlife sanctuary in the world which was invaded in 2012 by top Zanu PF officials, is set to end after government decided to indigenise it and establish a national park in the conservancy.

In a telephone interview with the Zimbabwe Independent, Wilfried Pabst, a German investor who is also vice-chairperson of the conservancy, said the conservancy operators had signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Parks Authority to establish the national park.

He said they were also close to concluding negotiations with Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere to finalise details.

Kasukuwere disclosed government's plans last Sunday claiming among other things that the development is going to result in the establishment of "a significant national park".

"We are moving ahead to indigenise Save Valley Conservancy and this is going to lead to the creation of a significant national park. I will provide specifics later but you can rest assured that it will be indigenised," said Kasukuwere.

While confirming Kasukuwere's comments, Pabst however emphasised that the indigenisation would not affect foreign-owned properties in the conservancy, nor would it be a "freebie" where government or locals just grab properties for free.

"About 35% of the conservancy is foreign-owned and this will not be affected by the indigenisation," he explained adding that "another 34% will not be affected because it is already in indigenous hands. However the 51% to be indigenised will come from the remainder which is currently in the hands of white Zimbabweans."

"Another criterion for these investors is that all those who already own a farm will not be considered," said Pabst.

He said Germany and the European Union will also assist in capacitating the national parks so that it can engage in conservation efforts.

Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi who strongly spoke out against the invasion of Save Conservancy by Zanu PF officials in 2012 declined to comment, referring all questions to Kasukuwere.

Zanu PF loyalists, particularly from Masvingo province, parcelled out the conservancy among themselves before embarking on an orgy of wildlife hunting, sparking local and international outrage.

Pabst alluded to the invasions when he singled out former deputy minister Shuvai Mahofa, describing her as "notorious" after she "grabbed Savuli ranch within the conservancy and has poached many animals. She has tried to poach rhinos too," he said.

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