via Is Kasukuwere full of sound, fury? by Wisdom Mdzungairi for NewsDay.co.zw September 16, 2013
ON Friday, Environment, Water and Climate Change minister Saviour Kasukuwere declared war on poachers, indicating it was a war to win — and he will win it. By that statement at a press briefing to announce his arrival at the ministry whose departments control over 16% of the total land area, it is portentous as much as it is trivial to poaching gangs.
We expect policymakers to know that it is not poverty that drives people to kill elephants or traffic ivory and at this rate, it is conceivable that anybody could be suspected of involvement in the ivory trafficking business. Despite military efforts to stop the poachers in some countries, the problem has since worsened.
Kasukuwere (Cde Tyson in political circles) spoke as three poachers who poisoned 42 elephants with cyanide at a water point in Tsholotsho adjacent the country’s flagship Hwange National Park, were remanded in custody to Friday this week. The three poachers poisoned the elephants and harvested the tusks as the animals lay dying. The gruesome activity of the three poachers was discovered by rangers on patrol who spotted the suspicious footprints of the poachers.
They tracked down the spoor leading them to the water point where the granules of cyanide were discovered. Further tracking led the rangers to dead de-tusked elephant at an advanced state of decomposition.
A further tracking led to the discovery of another 41 elephant carcasses. The rangers crew then tracked further the spoor in pursuit of the poachers which led them to the homestead of one of the culprits, Sipho Mafu, who admitted poisoning animals in the company of two others.
Mafu assisted police with information leading to the arrest of his accomplices. Seventeen elephant tusks were recovered hidden in the vast Hwange National Park.
I have a feeling the new minister could have been jolted by criticisms in his previous portfolio, with others suggesting he, together with Transport minister Obert Mpofu, were demoted. I think this is far from it.
The world over, it is agreed that bigger fines and stronger penalties alone won’t even be enough to stop poaching for ivory — but to some extent traditional values could help.
The elephant population in Africa is dwindling at a faster rate and despite best efforts, we are not winning the war on poaching, at least not with guns.
A recent massive seizure of 1,5 tonnes of ivory in Kenya’s port city of Mombasa flies in the face of threats against poachers and dealers by not only Kasukuwere, but others in sub-Saharan Africa, and yet ivory traffickers continue unabated. By all measures, elephants are much worse off than last year.
Indeed, poaching must become a socially unacceptable practice, morally wrong, and a taboo.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by . . ., full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, according to Macbeth. Here’s hoping Kasukuwere’s voice will not diminish with time. Does he know exactly what the ministry entails now that it is expanded to include water resources?
No matter how many times I meet with policymakers around the world to talk about alternative policy issues for climate change and other environmental problems, I never cease to be struck by the confusion that abounds regarding the changing climatic patterns, environmental and economic consequences.
I believe the Environment ministry is as important as any other government portfolio. Now that he is at the core of all economic activities, he should cool down and see how he will deal with business development, in particular in the country’s top tourist attraction centre Victoria Falls, which is one of the factors causing severe problems for species already trying to adapt to climate change.
Warmer temperatures can lead to some species seeking to expand their ranges. However, some of the more specialised species are unable to move within the Victoria Falls, Hwange and Mana Pools because development is blocking their way.
The right believes the agenda is green on the outside, but red on the inside, so let us take the political poison out of the debate. Many of the policy responses to the climate change problem — consume less, regulate businesses, restrict car use — feel more comfortable to those on the left than the right of the political spectrum. And as a result, right-leaning politicians and thinkers are in danger of losing grip on the most important issue of our age. Tell you what Kasukuwere, it would be disastrous if it happens in Zimbabwe too.
This may seem like a trivial issue with an obvious answer. An immediate and natural response may be that everyone should do their part in addressing climate change?
Government action is clearly key, because climate change is an externality, and it is rarely, if ever, in the self-interest of business or individuals to take unilateral actions. That’s why the climate problem exists, in the first place. All the best to Kasukuwere, as he officiates at his first Environment event in Kwekwe today to mark World Ozone Day.