Friday, September 7, 2012

Rape and Ruin: Land Grabs Threaten Zimbabwe's Conservation and Tourism Efforts

According to a September 6, 2012 article on SW Radio Africa’s Web site, the rape of the Save (pronounced Sah-Vay) Valley Conservancy continues.  The conservancy, a collection of conservation areas in the southern region of Zimbabwe that had the game migration routes for many of the species that are in South Africa’s Kruger Park, has been the target of attempted land grabs for several  years, spearheaded by the governor of Masvingo Province, Titus Maluleke and a member of the Zimbabwean Defense Forces, Lieutenant Colonel David Moyo, in blatant defiance of the government’s supposed efforts to protect the environment and place the conservancies in a special category from other properties that have been seized in the so-called ‘indigenization’ drive.

According to SW Africa Radio, the current efforts, aided by National Parks chief Vitalis Chadenga, who himself has been the beneficiary of seized property; include many high level officials of the ZANU-PF party.  Vitalis, according to the article, has given land leases in the conservancy to officials who have issued warnings to the current occupants that they are now the new ‘owners,’ and also has granted hunting licenses to the new ‘owners,’ which is starving current owners of the revenue needed to maintain the facilities.

These takeover efforts have also ignored warnings that they risk destroying the country’s wildlife and tourism sectors.  This is especially troubling considering that it comes ahead of the planned UN World Tourism Organization General Assembly in Victoria Falls next year.  Previous take overs of portions of the conservancies have not only threatened wild life sanctuaries and migration routes, but have resulted in rural populations being displaced from relatively fertile agricultural land to land without adequate water or other means of economic livelihood.