EU worried about Save Conservancy chaos

HARARE - The European Union says it is worried by current chaos in the Save Valley Conservancy but is not planning to slap implicated Zanu PF officials with punitive measures.

Acting head of the EU mission Carl Skau told the Daily News they will continue with dialogue and engagement processes with the inclusive government.

“There haven’t been discussions on measures. It is more of a perception issue. We are concerned about the rule of law and respecting bilateral agreements that are in place. What is happening tarnishes the image of Zimbabwe."

“We are making efforts to promote trade and investment but what’s happening tarnishes the reputation of doing business with Zimbabwe,” Skau told the Daily News.

He said preserving the unique biodiversity in the Save Valley is an environmental imperative: “The Save Valley conservancies are also important drivers for local development and for growth in the tourism sector.”

The EU is engaged in dialogue with all the parties in the inclusive government as it tries to encourage reforms that extricate the country from its current political and economic situation.

Skau says the EU will continue with its developmental support in key areas. He expects the government to bring an end to the chaos in the Save Valley Conservancy.

The conservancy was founded in 1991 and has drawn support from the World Wildlife Fund and investors from Europe and United States who are protected under bilateral investment agreements with the countries involved.

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

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

A group of 25 Zanu PF officials including Masvingo governor Titus Maluleke, Higher Education minister Stan Mudenge and former lawmaker Shuvai Mahofa, are among those accused of invading the conservancy.

Maluleke denies any wrongdoing but insists the occupancy is part of indigenisation of the lucrative wildlife industry which he argues is backed by the quotas parcelled by government.

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.

Willy Pabst, the Germany industrialist and hunting enthusiast who has been leading a campaign to save wildlife sanctuary, claims Zanu PF 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.

“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 during an interview with our sister paper, the Daily News on Sunday.

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.

“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.

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