via ‘Manzou Farm not fit for ‘Big Five’ game’ – DailyNews Live 21 January 2015
HARARE – Manzou Farm in Mazowe, which has been given to First Lady Grace Mugabe to run as a wildlife sanctuary, is not fit for “Big Five” game, Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) has said.
Johnny Rodriguez, chairman of ZCTF, told the Daily News yesterday that Manzou Farm should not be turned into a game park as the “Big Five” game — comprising lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros species — will pose problems to villagers.
“I think it is wrong what they are doing,” Rodriguez said.
“Mazowe is an agricultural area and the wild animals will cause a lot of problems for the villagers. I think Mazowe should be reserved for agriculture activities and not a game park.
“But we know that when you talk about the ‘Big Five’ you are talking about big monies.
“People all over the world will come and hunt and this means money. But we can’t put money first ahead of the people.”
The ZCTF chairman questioned where the government would get funds to secure the farm.
“In order to have a game park, there are security measures that they need to put in place like fencing,” he said.
“Who is paying for this when they are struggling to pay workers? Who is paying for the transportation of the animals?”
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) has been skating around their role in the control of the controversial Manzou Farm.
Government has said the First Lady’s farm would be controlled by Zimparks, which was supposed to release animals including the big five last week.
Approached by the Daily News to clarify how they were going to undertake the takeover and release animals given that there were villagers adjacent to the farm, Zimparks has been skating around the issue without anyone at the parastatal willing to give the correct position.
Caroline Washaya-Moyo, Zimparks public relations officer, directed the Daily News to Godfreys Matipano, the acting director conservation, who refused to comment on the issue, referring the paper back to Washaya-Moyo.
“I am not the spokesperson, talk to our public relations officer,” Matipano said.
But Washaya-Moyo still failed to answer questions posed to her, questions which included how Zimparks was going to protect people as well as how they envisaged stopping the animals from being hunted down.
In the past weeks, heavily armed police descended on Manzou Farm, indiscriminately and arbitrarily demolishing homes, slashing crops and setting on fire personal belongings of the villagers.
But High Court Judge Erica Ndewere had on Monday last week granted a provisional order stopping the evictions if no alternative places of residence were availed by the state.
A chorus of condemnation to the callous removals, including the displacement of children from their school, as well as the wanton destruction of crops and property, had fallen on deaf ears.
At the time, minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Mashonaland Central, Martin Dinha, along with Zanu PF, denied vehemently that the first family was in any way involved in the evictions, arguing falsely and rather self-servingly that Grace was a “philanthropist” who would never destroy people’s livelihoods.
However, in a sudden about-turn last week, Dinha confirmed that Grace had applied for a licence to run an animal sanctuary and had been duly awarded the vast and fertile farm bordering her other multi-million business and farming interests in the area.
The minister added that elephants and lions were going to be moved onto the farm, but he did not say how much this project of moving animals to the farm and repairing infrastructure such as the fencing would cost, and whether Grace would pay for all this.
Rodriguez said government should first consult ecologists to determine whether the ecology at the farm was suitable for the wild animals.