MEMBERS of the Save Valley Conservancy have appealed for cabinet intervention over the controversial indigenisation of the wildlife sanctuary which has exposed sharp divisions between the tourism and environment ministers.
Some 25 individuals, many of them top Zanu PF officials such as higher education minister Stan Mudenge, provincial governor Titus Maluleke and former lawmaker, Shuvai Mahofa, were recently handed hunting permits and land leases on the 2,600 square kilometre nature reserve.
Maluleke has accused white wildlife ranchers of resisting the country’s a wildlife-based land reform program which calls on them to go into partnership with blacks in wildlife and animal husbandry projects
Members of the conservancy insist the sanctuary is already largely indigenous adding imposition of partners risked crippling ongoing conservation efforts and put thousands of wildlife under threat of annihilation.
Wilfred Pabst, the Conservancy’s deputy chairperson confirmed an approach had been made to the coalition cabinet over the issue.
“It is not proper for me to give details but I can confirm that such letter has been delivered to Government,” he said.
Sharp divisions have since emerged between Tourism and Environment Ministers, Walter Mzembi and Francis Nhema, both from President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party, over the development.
Said Mzembi last week: "It is wrong to have minority ownership of conservancies, but it is even more unpardonable to replace that minority white with a minority black, in the face of a crisis of expectations and thirst for empowerment from our black majority.
"It promotes greed and alienation of our masses who are the legitimate broad-based empowerment partners in community share ownership and empowerment trusts as currently being applied in the mining sector.
“This business of empowering people who are already empowered severally in other sectors, such as farming, ranching, sugar cane farming, mining, etc, will not pass the moral test nor will it endear us to the people except to ourselves."
But Nhema said indigenisation of the sanctuary had since been approved by the government and accused conservancy members of trying to block the new partners.
"Several meetings were held between the governors and conservancy members who agreed on the criteria for partnerships," he insisted.
In a statement at the weekend conservancy members said “greedy individuals” had wrongly claimed it was white dominated adding officials were using colour as “a racial tool” to collapse world-renowned conservation efforts for short-term gain.
“When humans behave like animals, we destroy not only each other but generations to come. We as humans can help stop using colour as a racial tool to destroy the very people who are working for our common good,” the group said.
The new members have already moved to oust the conservancy’s chairman Basil Nyabadza who also chairs the agricultural parastatal ARDA which is a partner in the project. He was replaced by Chiredzi South legislator Ailess Baloyi (Zanu PF).
However, Nyambadza said his ouster was null and void.
“In February this year, I was elected to chair the executive committee representing Arda and that still stands,” he said.
“My office remains in charge of the executive. That issue is not contested by anyone except Baloyi who is expressing his wish that I am not the chairman (which) is a personal and limited idea that will not be bought by my party (Zanu PF) and Government.”
Under the country’s economic empowerment programme, foreign companies must transfer at least 51 percent of their Zimbabwe operations to locals. But the conservancy says more than two thirds of its operations are already indigenous.
Founded in 1991, the conservancy is a habitat for elephant, zebra, giraffe, as well as the country’s second largest surviving population of endangered black rhinoceros. The area also supports an array of African antelope and most species of birds and small animals.