Zim conservancies to become national parks?

by SA Tourism news
(16th Oct 2012)

During a recent politburo meeting, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe reportedly criticised senior Zanu PF officials and army commanders for invading and grabbing lucrative safari landholdings in the Save Valley Conservancy. He was quoted in the Zimbabwe Independent as saying all conservancies must now be turned into national parks.

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo reportedly confirmed the politburo had set up a committee including Environment minister Francis Nhema, Lands minister Herbert Murerwa and Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to look into the feasibility of turning the conservancies into national parks as well as propose models that ensure communities could benefit.

However, according to tourism industry players, converting conservancies into national parks would be “the last nail in the coffin”. Emmanuel Fundira, President of Zimbabwe Council for Tourism and Vice Chairman of Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, told Tourism Update the concept would not work as the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has no capacity to administer any additional workload. He says: “The consequences will be so vast and will lead to the demise and total collapse of the safari industry”.

Fundira believes the parks authority is abusing existing national parks by allowing paying clients to harvest trophy animals out of them for export. He says: “This is against best practice and also presents a conflict with photographic safari operators and their clients and green peace lobby groups.” Fundira adds the conversion of conservancies into parks would pose as a serious threat to the US$30m (R262m) safari business in Zimbabwe.

MDC-T Masvingo Provincial Secretary Tongai Matutu warned that turning conservancies into national parks would only accelerate looting, poaching and other forms of asset stripping. For Matutu, the best way forward would be to adopt a model, which facilitates the empowerment of local communities, like the share-ownership trusts, in partnership with foreign entrepreneurs.

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