WAR veterans on Friday stormed Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Walter Mzembi’s offices demanding an explanation as to why the recent allocation of conservancies to a few politicians was being resisted.
REPORT BY PATRICE MAKOVA
The former freedom fighters, led by Joseph Chinotimba, who is himself not a veteran of Zimbabwe’s war of liberation, later had a change of heart after the meeting and pledged to support plans by the government to broadly empower communities living along the Save Valley Conservancy, rather than individuals.
Chinotimba is one of the 25 Zanu PF politicians who were recently issued with hunting permits and 25-year leases to run the conservancies in a move which has been roundly condemned.
Mzembi confirmed that Chinotimba and other war veterans visited his offices but he persuaded him to adopt a broad-based approach to the issue.
“Chinotimba now sees sense in a broad-based approach and has agreed to go to Save Conservancy on Saturday (yesterday) together with Zimbabwe Tourism Association Chief executive, Karikoga Kaseke to assess the situation there,” Mzembi said.
Kaseke said it did not take long for Chinotimba to agree to the idea of empowering communities.
He said Chinotimba was only worried that the hunting permits of the white owners had expired, hence there were fears that they could go into poaching. Kaseke said the visit to Save Valley was meant to assess the extent of damage to tourism in the area.
Chinotimba also confirmed that he now fully supported efforts to come up with new policies to deal with empowerment in conservancies.
“As war veterans, we will listen and follow whatever policies Mzembi and Francis Nhema (Environment and Natural Resources minister) will put in place as long as they benefit the people,” he said.
Chinotimba said while war veterans now agreed that whites should not be kicked out of the conservancies, there was a need for them to co-exist with blacks to avoid suspicions and counter suspicions over who was responsible for rampant poaching in the area.
As the self-styled commander in chief of farm invasions, Chinotimba led a violent campaign to forcibly remove whites from their farms from 2001.
Despite owning another farm in Mashonaland, he now wants to diversify into conservancies, claiming that whites evicted his family from the Save Valley back in the 1960s.