By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
21 January 2014
Authorities at the Save valley Conservancy have denied claims that plans are underway to turn the area into a national park, after reports quoted the new tourism minister as saying this was in the pipeline.
The Zimbabwe Independent last week quoted Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, the former Indigenisation Minister, as saying that negotiations with the Conservancy would 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.
The paper also quoted the Conservancy’s Vice Chairperson, Wilfried Pabst. as confirming this was going to happen. But Pabst told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the Zim Independent ‘misunderstood’.
“No, the Conservancy will not be turned into a national park. That’s not the idea. The Conservancy will stay the way it is,” Pabst said.
He explained that indigenisation negotiations are under way with the government, “but the details still need to be ironed out.”
Part of the proposals currently on the table include protection for foreign investors, whose land makes up an estimated 36% of the Conservancy. Pabst said that “no one is going to get involved in the Conservancy if it affects any foreign investors. Foreign investors are safe, as they should be.”
This is despite Zimbabwe’s indigenisation laws explicitly stating that foreign owned businesses are meant to hand over 51% of their shareholding to indigenous Zimbabweans.
Pabst, a German investor, said instead that the only section of the Conservancy that could face these requirements are the estimated 36% of properties where “there is a hodge-podge of white and black Zimbabweans owning and sharing properties.”
“I say these properties may be affected, because many of these properties are already indigenised, but the partners just need to be recognised,” Pabst said.
He explained that in the event that some properties are earmarked for indigenous takeover, the National Parks authority would seek out financially stable investors as the new partners. Pabst said that certain criteria will be met to ensure there is not any abuse of authority or any financial losses.
“If they (potential investors) have already received or invested in a farm in Zimbabwe then they won’t be considered. This means the gang of people in Masvingo who’ve been trying to jambanja the Conservancy, they won’t be considered,” Pabst said.
He added: “The other criteria is that if someone has created a property and infrastructure and reputation worth millions, it will have to be recognised and paid for.”