From the archive: Save Valley ‘facing collapse’ – May 15, 2013

via Save Valley ‘facing collapse’ in the midst of political wrangle | SW Radio Africa by Alex Bell on Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Save Valley Conservancy, which has been targeted with a ZANU PF led takeover, is said to be on the verge of collapse.

According to a senior official and investor at the Conservancy, worsening political wrangling and a lack of clear leadership means the once highly respected conservancy area is “in serious trouble.”

The Conservancy last year became the latest target of the ZANU PF led land grab campaign, despite warnings about the destructive consequences such a campaign will have on the wildlife and tourism sectors. Last year a parliamentary committee said in a damning report that the forced seizure of Save by top political and military figures with “no interest (or) experience in wildlife conservation” had resulted in massive destruction there.

These same officials were given 25 year land leases for Save back in 2007, and then in August 2012 the group was handed hunting licenses while the legitimate investors of the area were denied permits.

Part of the group favoured by National Parks are war vets leader Joseph Chinotimba, Major General Gibson Mashingaidze, Major General Engelbert Rugeje, Masvingo Governor and Resident Minister Titus Maluleke, ZANU PF Masvingo provincial chairperson Lovemore Matuke, the late Higher Education Minister Stan Mudenge, Health Deputy Minister Douglas Mombeshora, ZANU PF central committee member Enock Porusingazi and ZANU PF MPs Alois Baloyi, Abraham Sithole, Samson Mukanduri and Noel Mandebvu.

Former ZANU PF MP and war vet Shuvai Mahofa was also a beneficiary of this campaign, illegally seizing the Savuli Ranch in the Save Valley Conservancy and evicting the owners and their employees this year. Mahofa has since been implicated in poaching, after a butchery she owns was raided by police and the carcasses of three buffalo and other bush meat was discovered. But she was also recently removed from Europe’s list of targeted sanctions against the ZANU PF regime, for unexplained reasons.

The situation at Save has also shone a light on serious ZANU PF infighting, with senior party officials bickering over what to do. Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi in particular has been fighting Environment Minister Francis Nhema, with Nhema said to be responsible for ‘imposing’ the so-called ‘Masvingo Initiative’ as the new owners in the Conservancy. Mzembi, on the other hand, has been left to deal with damage control, because of the threat the targeting of the Conservancy potentially has for Zimbabwe’s hosting of the UN Tourism conference in August.

One of the original investors, German national Wilfried Pabst, told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that the situation came to a head last November when a parliamentary committee was convened. At the head of this committee is Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, but Pabst said he “is now part of the problem.”

“The problem is Mutambara, being who he is, with no powers in the MDC, is now vying to get a ZANU PF seat in Manicaland. So ZANU PF has a hold on him and they can make him their agent to try and continue not giving us (the legitimate Conservancy members) permits,” Pabst explained.

He also accused Minister Nhema of trying to impose the Masvingo group, saying this is detrimental to the future of Save Valley.

“They have no expertise and no money, and they have admitted they aren’t interested in anything other than cash, and that’s not going to work. What this basically is, is starving the members of the conservancy of their rightful revenue and threatening the tourism reputation of Zimbabwe,” Pabst warned.

Efforts to contact Mutambara and other officials implicated in the Save Valley crisis were unsuccessful.