Zanu PF officials in wildlife bribes scam

HARARE - Willy Pabst, the Germany industrialist and hunting enthusiast who has been leading a campaign to save wildlife sanctuary, the Save Valley Conservancy, from occupation by Zanu PF officials has made sensational claims that party stalwarts have been asking for bribes from owners of the targeted conservancies.

Pabst has been leading a public campaign through a series of newspaper adverts to save the conservancies that he himself invested in way back in 1993.

He told the Daily News on Sunday that a clique of “greedy” Zanu PF officials have openly approached owners of wildlife ranches demanding bribes ranging from $10 000 to $100 000 in exchange for permits issued to them by the National Parks and Wildlife.

“There were 25 people who were given hunting permits each for about $5 500. They have been coming to us asking for money in exchange for the permits,” said Pabst in a telephone interview from his Cape Town base.

“They have been asking for money from my colleagues and business partners.”

The country’s wildlife authority says the move to parcel out wildlife ranches to Zanu PF officials is necessary to empower blacks in this multi-million dollar sector.

The takeover of the conservancies has set Zanu PF cabinet ministers against each other.  

Tourism minister Walter Mzembi is fighting in the conservationists’ corner while minister of Environment Francis Nhema is pushing for the accommodation of black people in the sector.

Mzembi argues the takeovers are tarnishing Zimbabwe’s image ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly to be co-hosted with Zambia next year.

Nhema, on the other hand, says the indigenisation of the white dominated wildlife sector takes precedence over the tourism indaba.

According to Pabst, indigenisation is being used as a front for looting by President Robert Mugabe’s cronies.

“This is not indigenisation. This is a group of 25 people who are determined to enrich themselves by destroying wildlife at the expense of the communities that are benefitting from Save Valley projects,” said Pabst.

He claimed the Zanu PF officials who were recently issued with leases and hunting quotas openly declared that they are not interested in the wildlife business and are willing to step aside if a bribe with the right figures comes their way.

Asked how the businessmen responded to the alleged requests for bribes, Pabst said, “We could not entertain such mafia style operations. It is blackmail and we cannot run businesses based on blackmail. This has nothing to do with indigenisation.”

Pabst claims in his newspaper adverts that thousands of livelihoods are threatened in the 2 600 square kilometre nature reserve and surrounding districts.

“When humans behave like animals, we destroy not only each other but generations to come,” the adverts read, adding that politicians “want to destroy agreements and policies that have made Save the world leader in conservation management.”

One of the alleged bribe seekers, former deputy minister and Zanu PF top notch Shuvai Mahofa, described the accusations as “rubbish”. “That is rubbish. It is stupid and ndezvavo izvozvo izvo (they can go to hell),” she said when approached for comment by the Daily News on Sunday.

“I entered into a contract with Terry and we agreed that we are going to work together and we have been working together very well for a year now but this Pabst then came and influenced Terry not to work with me and that is when the problem started,” said Mahofa.

“We agreed to put money into the business and that is why I have taken these whites to court. I am suing them for breach of contract. Hunting costs me $84 000 and that is the money that I want Terry to contribute. “I do not care what they say because I am now in business and making money. We have freed Zimbabwe from these Germans and Italians,” said Mahofa.

Save Valley Conservancy is a habitat for elephant, zebra, giraffe, as well as the nation’s second largest surviving population of endangered black rhinoceros.

The area also supports an array of African antelope and most species of birds and small animals.

Several nearby communities also benefit in the form of employment and conservation efforts.

The German government recently gave $30 million to the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area to help regional countries boost wildlife conservation efforts and curb poaching but Zimbabwe was excluded from the fund because of its failure to protect wildlife.


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