The Zimbabwean government is to decide the participation of indigenous black farmers in private wildlife conservancy.
The government said it will soon make a final decision regarding participation of indigenous black Zimbabwean farmers in the lucrative Save Valley Conservancy, a rich private sanctuary to the south east of the country that has remained predominantly a preserve of white farmers.
Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa was quoted by the Herald newspaper on Tuesday as saying that government’s decision will be in line with the wildlife-based land reform policy adopted during the country’s land reform program that started in 2000.
The policy opens opportunities for indigenous black farmers to be directly involved in the wildlife sector.
“We cannot have an area that is said to be a preserve of white people only. Black people should also benefit alongside white people because this country is ours,” the VP said.
He said he will soon request for permission from President Robert Mugabe to visit the vast conservancy spanning an area of some 3,400 square kilometers to assess the situation on the ground and bring closure to the problems in the area.
The conservancy has been dogged by controversy after some top ruling party officials invaded it in 2012 and allegedly started unsustainable wildlife hunting before government subsequently removed them.
One of the officials who were removed from the conservancy and current provincial affairs minister for Masvingo Province, Shuvai Mahofa argues that indigenous players must return to the conservancy to “benefit and guard against looting and externalization of resources”.
The government has previously announced plans to indigenize and establish a national park in the conservancy.
Wilfried Pabst, a German investor who is also vice-chairperson of the conservancy, has been quoted in the local media as saying that the indigenization would not affect foreign-owned properties in the conservancy, nor would it be a “freebie” where government or locals just grab properties for free.
He claimed that 35 percent of the conservancy was foreign-owned and that this would not be affected by indigenization while another 34 percent will not be affected because it was already in indigenous hands.
However, the 51 percent to be indigenized will come from the remainder which is currently in the hands of white Zimbabweans, Pabst said.
Created in the 1990s, Save Valley Conservancy is part of a critically important wildlife conservation eco-region in Zimbabwe.
Together with protected wildlife areas in Mozambique, South Africa and other wildlife areas in Zimbabwe’s Lowveld, it forms part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park that straddles the borders of the three countries.
The main goal of the conservancy is to protect the region’s ecology for future generations by placing special emphasis on preserving rare wildlife and their habitats.