By Alex Bell
27 August 2012
Zimbabwe has been threatened with potential withdrawal of support from Europe, over the worsening fight for control of the Save Valley Conservancy.
European diplomats, along with Conservancy officials, have called on Zimbabwe’s Cabinet to intervene in the fight, after ZANU PF aligned officials in Masvingo invaded the area last week. Diplomats have also warned that Zimbabwe faces losing European support for next year’s United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation congress, set to be hosted in Victoria Falls.
“We are all very concerned,” one diplomat told the German press group, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, adding: “We are considering appropriate reactions. It’s a very serious situation.”
Another diplomat was also quoted as saying that Zimbabwe “depends entirely on international support for the congress,” and “it cannot go ahead without us.” The diplomats said the idea of withdrawing support for Zimbabwe will be discussed in Berlin this week, during a meeting of German officials.
The Vice-Chairman of the Save Valley Conservancy, Wilfried Pabst, is a German citizen who has warned of the devastating consequences of the takeover of conservancy land. The exercise has been described as the biggest planned seizure of property by ZANU PF since the campaign targeting commercial farms. Pabst has also explained that there is no legislation providing for the state seizure of conservancies, which Parliament has also warned are meant to be protected.
Masvingo Governor Titus Maluleke, Chiredzi South MP Aaron Baloyi and a gang of thugs, stormed into a technical meeting between the Conservancy chiefs and National Parks that was taking place on the Conservancy grounds last Wednesday. The group is understood to have bullied its way in and insisted it was taking over control of Save Valley. MP Baloyi has placed himself as the new Chairman to replace Basil Nyabadza, who is also the Chairman of the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA).
The Masvingo Governor and Baloyi have since last year been spearheading a ZANU PF led campaign of ‘indigenisation’ in the province, dubbed the ‘Masvingo Initiative’, with the intention of grabbing land. Also included in this group is Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Stan Mudenge, and former MP and war vet Shuvai Mahofa.
Maluleke, Mudenge and Mahofa are now also among a group of ZANU PF officials recently granted hunting licences in the Conservancy by National Parks chief Vitalis Chadenga. Conservationists have warned that this could have a devastating effect on the wildlife and hunting sector. The authorities have also cancelled the operations of current hunting and safari groups.
Environment and Natural Resources Management Minister Francis Nhema has said that land owners in the conservancy should “play ball” and work with the new beneficiaries of land leases in the area. Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi has however raised concerns about the beneficiaries and said that the issuance of the hunting licences should be “revisited”.
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