Mail and Guardian

The battle for a slice in the hunting industry is at the centre of a damaging row over control of one of the country’s largest wildlife conservancies.

Donald Trump Jr with a buffalo he bagged in Zimbabwe. (Hunting Legends)

A group of senior Zanu-PF officials and game operators are fighting over the Save Valley Conservancy, a large area in the country’s lowveld. It has split the government and hurt the recovery of Zimbabwe’s tourism industry.

The officials are attracted by a game hunting industry that brings the world’s rich and famous to Zimbabwe. They pay thousands of dollars for the thrill of shooting large game.

At the Matetsi Game Reserve, where Donald Trump Jr controversially posed with a shot elephant and a buffalo last year, a three-week lion and a buffalo hunting expedition costs about $52 000. An elephant hunt costs at least $30 000 and hunters pay $14 500 for an elephant bull trophy.

Industry experts say the hunting business brings in about $30-million each year. The Zanu-PF officials believe there is easy and quick cash to be made, according to the minutes of a meeting held recently to replace the managers of the conservancy.

The minutes quote one of the officials, Zanu-PF MP Ailess Baloyi, as saying: “We have been given the rights and that is all there is to it. We are here to make money.”

But according to Wilfried Pabst, a German national who is vice-chairperson of the conservancy, the officials are wrong to assume the money will come easily.

“This is a slow and low-return business and not something that makes you rich overnight,” he said.

Pabst wrote to the Cabinet to plead for intervention. He said: “By public and recorded statements they [Zanu-PF officials] just want cash.”

Conservancy His plea won the sympathy of Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, a Zanu-PF minister regarded as a moderate.

In 1991, 21 cattle farmers in the area, hit by years of drought, ­abandoned farming and formed the conservancy, which covers 200 000 hectares. In 2007, under a land reform programme, leases to the land were offered to members of a consortium of Zanu-PF officials.

They claim that they struggled for years to get farmers in the area to partner with them in the safari business, but their efforts were resisted.

The conservancy has placed adverts in the press to appeal for government protection. But the adverts themselves have courted controversy. One showed a picture of a starving man, accompanied by warnings that villagers would starve if the current owners were forced to cede control.  Read more…

African Arguments

Zimbabwe’s Save Valley Conservancy, Indigenisation and ‘The Lie of the Land’ — by Takura Zhangazha

September 6, 2012

On the surface of it, it would appear that the political dispute over  the Save Valley Conservancy in South Eastern Zimbabwe is yet another  story of ‘illegal land-grabs’. It must however be said at the onset that this is an  understandable perception given the controversy and violence that has  come to be associated with our government’s land reform policies since  the year 2000. The fault for such a perception resides with the same  said government and I do not hold a brief to assist it in changing how  its policies are viewed globally or domestically. It is however  important that the issue of the Save Conservancy not be lost in the  conundrum of typical debate about land conflict and/or reform in  Zimbabwe. This is because it is more complicated than what is  currently being placed in the public domain.

Evidently, and as  has been reported in the media, there are four points of conflict over  and about this safari area. The first being that of the broad policy of  the Zimbabwean government to pursue indigenisation of the national  economy. In this, the government has insisted that all sectors of the  economy must be placed into indigenous ownership. Given the fact that parts of  the conservancy are managed by some local state and private entities in partnership with foreign nationals, it  appears that the Zimbabwe Community Areas Management Programme  for Indigenous Resources (Campfire) is not immune from indigenisation . In response, the European Union has issued a warning that it may renew sanctions on Zimbabwe over this matter. This of course  is in keeping with the contemporary narrative of our  government’s international relations and domestic policies.

The  second point of conflict over the Save Conservancy has been between  the political parties in the inclusive government. The two MDCs in government  have denounced not only the broader methodology of economic empowerment but also  specifically the takeover of the conservancy through the same policy and  by persons perceived to be functionaries of Zanu Pf.

This also leads us  to the third and rather surprising node of conflict surrounding this  matter. This being that of the Zanu Pf intra-party  divisions over the  allocation of parts of the conservancy that have reportedly required the  intervention of Vice President Mujuru. The fourth and perhaps most  important point of dispute over the Save Valley Conservancy has now been  reported as coming from traditional chiefs who are arguing that any  redistribution of the land there must not be only for the bigwigs but  must benefit the community.  Read more…