Save Valley signs agreement with local chiefs

Save Valley Conservancy

By Alex Bell
01 November 2012

Officials at the Save Valley Conservancy have reached an agreement with seven local chiefs, in a move that could see the withdrawal of hunting permits recently handed over to ZANU PF officials.

The agreement, signed Tuesday, will see local community involvement in the Conservancy. Chief Nhema, (Ranganai Bwawanda of Zaka), Chief Tshovani (Felix Mundau of Chiredzi), Chief Gudo (Mavivi Karukai of Chiredzi) and Chief Msikavanhu (Vusani Mutumebvi of Chipinge) signed the agreement on behalf of their communities at Chishakwe Ranch in the conservancy. Levison Budzi represented Chief Budzi of Bikita while Norman Muchini signed the agreement on behalf of Chief Chamutsa of Buhera. Rodwell Mabuyaye signed on behalf of Chief Mutema of Chipinge.

The Conservancy has become the latest target of the ZANU PF led land grab
campaign, despite warnings about the destructive consequences such a
campaign will have on the wildlife and tourism sectors. Earlier this year a
parliamentary committee said in a damning report that the forced seizure of
Save by top political and military figures with “no interest (or) experience
in wildlife conservation” had resulted in massive destruction there.

These same officials were given 25 year land leases for Save back in 2007, and then in August the group was handed hunting licences. Part of this group are war vets leader Joseph Chinotimba, Major General Gibson Mashingaidze, Major General Engelbert Rugeje, Masvingo Governor and Resident Minister Titus Maluleke, ZANU PF Masvingo provincial chairperson Lovemore Matuke, the late Higher Education Minister Stan Mudenge, Health Deputy Minister Douglas Mombeshora, ZANU PF central committee member Enock Porusingazi and ZANU PF MPs Alois Baloyi, Abraham Sithole, Samson Mukanduri and Noel Mandebvu.

Former ZANU PF MP and war vet Shuvai Mahofa was also a beneficiary of this campaign, illegally seizing the Savuli Ranch in the Save Valley Conservancy and evicting the owners and their employees this year. Mahofa has since been implicated in poaching, after a butchery she owns was raided by police and the carcasses of three buffalo and other bush meat was discovered.

Behind the scenes there have been ongoing meetings and discussions about what to do, particularly because of the strong public outcry that met news of the handover of the hunting licences to ZANU PF cronies. The meetings have included high level discussions of the ZANU PF politburo, and there is speculation the party has been attempting some damage control, to save face ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly, scheduled for next year at Victoria Falls.

The result of all this has been the agreement reached this week with officials at the Save Valley Conservancy and local chiefs from the surrounding areas. Wilfried Pabst, the Vice Chairman of the Conservancy, said the agreement was originally proposed back in 2000, but a refusal by the government to engage with them on this plan meant it was never implemented.

“We have basically taken action into our own hands now and said to the local councils and chiefs ‘lets get together’,” Pabst explained, adding: “We could have done this years ago but we never had support from the government.”

He said the deal is the first step in involving the local communities in various projects at the Conservancy, to the benefit of all involved. He said the government’s attempts to ‘nationalise’ the Conservancy would be ‘disastrous’, adding that the permits and hunting licences that were illegally handed over will soon be withdrawn.

“The leases are highly illegal. No one has ever produced a legal document,” Pabst said.

He also explained that the hunting permits were handed out illegally, and the individuals involved have since tried to extort thousands of dollars out of the Conservancy in exchange for the permits. He said that “Cabinet has decided to withdraw these licences and that will happen soon.”

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