GERMANY has warned it may boycott the World Tourism Conference to be jointly hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe in August to protest the invasion of the Save Valley Conservancy by Zanu PF officials.
The European country says Zimbabwe’s “qualification to host an international meeting on tourism” will be questioned if the government does not move to restore order at the conservancy, which is partly-owned by German investors.
Hans-Gunter Gnodtke, Germany’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, told a news conference in Harare on Wednesday, that his country had made strong representations to the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“Let there also be no doubt we have not yet made our decision if and at what level to participate at that conference,” Gnodtke said.
“But if elements wishing to destroy wildlife and tourism infrastructure in Zimbabwe protected by an international Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) should succeed, this will seriously affect Zimbabwe’s qualification to host an international meeting on tourism.
“This is what we have told both the Zimbabwean and Zambian governments. We hope and pray that common sense and responsibility will prevail and that the Victoria Falls meeting will be a success.”
Twenty-five Zanu PF officials parcelled out the 3,400 square-km prized wildlife reserve in the south-east Lowveld of Zimbabwe among themselves, amid threats of aid withdrawal by the European Union.
The officials – who included the late Higher Education Minister Stan Mudenge, Masvingo governor Titus Maluleke and former lawmaker Shuvai Mahofa – claimed the invasion was part of a government programme to “indigenise” nature reserves.
But German investor Wilfried Pabst, who is vice-chair of the conservancy, says “two-thirds of stakeholders of the conservancy are black”, adding: “It is now being threatened by a collection of greedy individuals who are bringing nothing into the conservancy and will destroy it.”
And at his news conference, Ambassador Gnodtke said the Save Conservancy investment protection deal was signed with a Zanu PF government.
“When we talk of German investors in Zimbabwe, we are talking of those investors who came here at Zanu PF’s invitation. We had Zimbabwe ministers coming to Germany inviting Gemans to Zimbabwe. Even the President [Robert Mugabe] came to Germany and invited Germans to come to Zimbabwe.”
He said Germany still hopes the World Tourism Conference will be a “resounding success putting Zimbabwe back on the map for international tourism were it actually believe it belongs.”
Running along the banks of the Save River, the conservancy – respected as a leader in wildlife management and research – is collectively controlled by international investors, white ranchers who formerly ran cattle on the land, local black businessmen and hundreds of rural farmers.
"It is a working example of how something really special can be a success, by including all sectors of the community, especially the rural poor who have previously got nothing out of wildlife," says Pabst.
The intended seizure of the conservancy was announced by the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority in August last year, sparking anger from Germany which is being backed by other European countries.
Cabinet has announced a committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to look into the problems at the conservancy, and ambassador Gnodtke expects his country to make a decision about its role at the conference once the committee concludes its work and a firm policy is adopted by ministers.
Save is a habitat for elephant, zebra, giraffe, as well as the nation's second largest surviving population of endangered black rhinoceros. The area also supports an array of antelope and most species of birds and small animals.