By Leopold Munhende
BARELY a week after President Emmerson Mnangagwa and European Union Ambassador Timo Alkonnen had a near nasty public spat over Zimbabwe’s worsening human rights record, Mnangagwa has set himself on another collision course with the Western bloc over trade in ivory.
Mnangagwa said that Europeans had no right to determine through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) how Zimbabwe manages its wildlife since they ‘ate’ all their animals.
He was speaking at a ground-breaking ceremony to mark the commencement of refurbishments on a 6,5 km strip of tar along the Harare-Chirundu Highway by the Japanese.
“CITES is an organisation of people who ate all their animals and those who still have their animals.
“Europe no longer has any animals they ate them all but they have the audacity to come and give us laws on how to handle our animals here, we say no to that,” said Mnangagwa.
“They deny us the right to sell elephant tusks and rhino horns but say protect them from poachers yet we need Rangers, Fences and helicopters to help identify poachers. Where will all this money come from?”
Mnangagwa was given an array of targets for reform by the West after he indicated that he wanted re–engagement following the fall of his predecessor Robert Mugabe in 2017.
The President seems to be struggling to convince especially the Western world that he is the reformer he has claimed with most arguing the situation has instead deteriorated under his watch on all fronts including human rights.
This recent attack on the Geneva based CITES could dent his hopes of being accepted by the West whom he is courting to invest in the troubled country.
Mnangagwa said that selling ivory and some of the resources would allow his government to invest in the protection of more animals and CITES’ views were none of their business.
“We say hides, elephants tusks and all that is in the same category should be sold so that we get money to protect other animals.
“We have an elephant population of 84 000 but we are only capable of taking care of 54 000, then they come and tell us not to sell, that is their own problem,” said Mnangagwa.
Zimbabwe is sitting on millions of dollars worth of ivory but has not been able to sell due to the CITES ban.