PM intervenes in wildlife invasions

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has launched an inquiry into recent invasions of wildlife conservancies by senior Zanu PF officials as he seeks to clean the country’s image ahead of the world’s biggest tourism event next year.

Latest reports indicate that wild animals face annihilation while thousands of livelihoods are under threat after 25 Zanu PF senior members were granted hunting permits and land leases in the 260 000 square metre Save Valley Conservancy.

Speaking at the Zimbabwe High-Level Economic Forum in Victoria Falls yesterday, Tsvangirai said he had met Tourism minister Walter Mzembi and his environment counterpart Francis Nhema and told them to put their house in order before the country co-hosts the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly with Zambia in August net year.

“This sends the wrong signal at a time we want to unleash our economic growth potential,” he said.

The PM’s statement followed similar remarks by Finance minister Tendai Biti who told the forum the unlawful grabbing of conservancies was ill-timed and could tarnish the country’s image at a mega event.

The event, which Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke says is expected to register 2 000 delegates, is held once in every two years and brings together key tourism players including heads of ministries from various governments across the world.

It is Zimbabwe’s opportunity to rebrand itself following a decade of bad publicity after the often violent fast-track land reform programme and successive disputed elections.

At the end of last month, Mzembi sought Mugabe and his deputy Joice Mujuru’s help in a vicious fight to stop Zanu PF officials from invading wildlife conservancies.

Mzembi fears anarchy prevailing in the conservancies will dent the country’s image ahead of the Unwto general assembly.

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