The granting of 25-year-leases to Zanu PF politicians to be part-owners of Save Valley in the Lowveld spells disaster for the sanctuary that contains an estimated 100 000 animals.
Over the past week the conservancy has run adverts warning the nation that “a few greedy individuals who care only for what they can take for themselves” were bent on destroying the animal sanctuary. The individuals were named as Masvingo governor Titus Maluleke, Higher Education minister Stan Mudenge, former Gutu South MP Shuvai Mahofa, Chiredzi North MP Ronald Ndava and his Chiredzi South counterpart, Ailess Baloyi.
There is no denying that the involvement of the politicians, who were granted leases by the department of National Parks as part of efforts to reform the wildlife sector, will have a destabilising effect on the conservancy and this may ultimately destroy the whole south-eastern wildlife region.
The livelihoods of about 10 000 people, who stay in the area that is unsuitable for farming, revolve around the conservancy which is now under threat. One shudders to think what will become of them if the conservancy is plundered. Before doling out 25-year leases, the department of National Parks should have carefully considered the ramifications of such a move, which is not only ill-timed but serves members of one political party.
Zimbabwe desperately needs to avoid sending negative signals to investors, such as granting people with few resources and questionable interest in wildlife management control over such a vast area.
The country is at the moment preparing to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly next year and such costly distractions are damaging to the country’s reputation.
If Maluleke and company are keen on establishing their own conservancy, why shouldn’t they occupy idle land in Zaka, Chiredzi, Bikita, Buhera and Chipinge that borders Save and start their own project?
Setting their eyes on a successful project that was started by others in 1991 betrays their intention to reap where they did not sow. The department should be stopped before it parcels out a shining animal sanctuary to Zanu PF loyalists, who will certainly ruin it.