WHILE many might initially have dismissed it as hogwash, recent events have made it glaringly clear that the government actually means business in as far as the so-called “wildlife-based land reform programme” is concerned.
Report by Chipo Masara
This development should send chills down the spines of all animal-loving people.
While no one in their right mind could deny that Zimbabwe needed to rectify the historical imbalances created through the colonial system, we might need to agree that it is important to have a working formula in the implementation of programmes of such high impact.
One only has to go back to the land reform programme to see what happens when a seemingly good idea is implemented based on purely selfish motives.
While the project was a noble idea that could have had a lot of positive impact on the local people, the chaotic manner in which it was conducted left a lot to be desired.
Besides the plundering of the white commercial farmers’ properties, farm equipment and destruction of the ecological balance by the minority beneficiaries, the Zimbabwean majority is yet to realise any substantial gains from the programme.
Zimbabwe, which used to be the main food producer in southern Africa, has today been turned into a donor-reliant nation, with many currently facing acute food shortages even as we speak.
Considering this, it is disheartening to learn that the same government is now extending the programme to include the previously spared wildlife sanctuaries.
It leaves one wondering what those that have since invaded conservancies actually plan to do. Since most of the conservancies are in climatic region five — areas too dry to allow for any farming activities — the invaders cannot have agricultural projects in mind.
This means they can only be after one thing: wildlife!The Save Valley Conservancy’s representatives have been coming out in the media, begging the responsible authorities to re-think the move, which they believe will have a negative impact on, not only the welfare of the conservancy’s workers, but the wildlife themselves.
In a statement, Wilferd Pabst, vice-chairman of Save Valley Conservancy, reportedly said: “The people now involved, have specifically stated that they don’t care about wildlife in meetings I have been in. They only care about the cash to be made.”
As much as there is need to worry about the workers of the conservancies and what would become of them if the conservancies were taken over, there is need to worry about the kind of impact such a move would have on the country’s wildlife, a resource Zimbabwe was blessed with.
Due to a myriad of reasons, chief among them being poaching and the encroachment of humans into animal habitats, the wildlife population has dwindled in the country, although the responsible authorities would have us believe otherwise.
In the short-term, like Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister, Walter Mzembi rightly put it, the wildlife-based land reform programme will have a negative bearing on the much anticipated United Nations World Tourism (UNWTO) General Assembly that Zimbabwe is set to co-host with Zambia next year. The event has major implications for the country’s tourism sector.
In the long-term, the takeover of the country’s wildlife sanctuaries means it would be just a matter of a short time before the country’s wildlife is completely wiped out.