Wilderness - now under threat from platinum mining.
MAVURADONHA - I have
been going to Mavuradonha Wilderness Area for most of my life, spending a lot of
family time walking, camping and swimming in the numerous beautiful waterfalls
and streams. My family and I explored quite a lot of the area, especially the
part of this huge protected area that bordered onto our farm.
My father played a key
role in helping to make this massive 550 sq km of Zambezi escarpment into a
designated protected area, to be run jointly and fairly by the Muzarabani
District Council and the Musengezi Wildlife Society. Victoria Chitepo was the
Minister of Wildlife and Environment at the time, and she was the honorary
member who officially opened the Area in 1988. She was fully supportive of this
project and without her dedication, as well as that of my father and the other
commercial farmers in the farming areas bordering the wilderness, the project
may never have become a reality.
Many years followed during which a
beautiful, safe, wonderful natural heritage for all Zimbabweans was created. It
was a successful CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Program For Indigenous
Resources). As well as these two organizations managing the area, numerous
others supported it for no reward except to be able to enjoy the Mavuradonha and
know that they were doing their bit to protect it. They were dedicated, selfless
and their love of the bush surpassed all else. A few major contributors were
WWF, The Zambezi Society, the Embassy of the Netherlands, and a few others.
This is one of the few wild areas one can walk in without a guide, where
you could come across herds of elephant carefully treading their time-worn paths
along razor sharp cliff tops, or swim in natural crystal clear pools with a
waterfall thundering behind you. This natural rockslide encounter is one that
children remember for the rest of their lives as a dreamlike adventure, as I do.
Apart from people coming to visit and simply enjoying the area, the
Mavuradonha Wilderness also provided money to the surrounding communal areas
through tourism, hunting as well as the less obvious, but by no means less
important, protection of the entire area’s life-giving water sources which all
originate in the high plateaus and radiate down through the valleys to water the
So, with all that in mind it is no wonder I encountered a total
feeling of dismay and anger when I went to Mavuradonha the other day, and after
walking for a couple of hours through unchanged bush, with signs of recent
elephant activity as well as kudu, waterbuck and small nocturnal carnivores, I
looked over the edge of Eagles Crag cliff at the indescribable view, and saw a
scar across the wildest part of this wilderness.
A brand new road
crossing the Musengezi Bridge with a brand new bridge, to a part of this
escarpment that is being surveyed for platinum. Tears filled my eyes - because I
knew in my heart that this was the end of the line. Where there are mines, areas
become built up, roads are built, people move in, trees are destroyed and the
animals are killed. The environment always comes out second best. The government
has approved this new mine with no thought to the wildlife and the people of
Zimbabwe’s natural heritage.
Nothing will be able to stop this atrocity,
because, as we know, in our country, these kind of things are happening on a
daily basis. Indeed, when compared to the other disgusting things happening in
Zimbabwe, this could be considered a minor incident - that such a stunning area
is going to be destroyed.
I wrote this article because I believe the
people of this country have the right to know what is going on in areas like
Mavuradonha, which are seldom seen now due to the lack of fuel for weekend
jaunts and the lack of foreign tourists, who used to support this area.
The only way of looking at these losses is to remember that our time on
this planet is so very short in comparison to the age of the Earth, and that
these areas will be here long after we have gone. Hopefully our descendants in a
century or so will find that these areas – destroyed through greed and
selfishness in our time – have been healed by nature. I hope and pray that the
people also will have evolved and will know how important these places are -
unlike the stupid, narrow mindedness we seem to have today, where everyone takes
whatever they want when they want it - and never put anything