Nduduzo Tshuma Political Editor
THE Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Oppah Muchinguri yesterday dismissed claims that she was stalling development projects in Tsholotsho by frustrating an elephant hunt which had been okayed by her predecessor Saviour Kasukuwere.
Now the Minister of Local Government, Kasukuwere issued hunting quotas for 50 elephants to the Tsholotsho Rural District Council to support the first stages of the construction of a stadium, mooted last year by local MP Professor Jonathan Moyo.
Further hunting permits had been issued for 20 elephants, with the money being earmarked for developmental projects including the drilling of boreholes and building of clinics in the area. Hunters pay up to $30,000 for an elephant kill.
Minister Muchinguri yesterday said the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority board had stopped hunting in the area to deal with cases of poaching of elephants through poisoning the animals with cyanide.
She said the issue of quotas was not directly dealt with by her office but the board which decided that the poaching issue be given the first preference as it was damaging the country’s image. “There’s a board that deals with that. When I got in the ministry I found a board which then left and a new one was appointed. The new board then stopped hunting after we experienced poaching activities in the area involving poisoning elephants with cyanide,” she said.
“The country suffered bad publicity from the cyanide poisoning and it was felt that the hunts be stopped while the poaching issue was being handled. It’s important not to involve politics in this critical matter.”
Tsholotsho RDC chairperson Cde Alois Ndebele, speaking at the handover of a classroom block at Mbiriya Primary School by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko in Tsholotsho on Sunday, said they had met with frustration when they tried to pursue the hunting quotas with Minister Muchinguri.
Cde Ndebele, who is also a Zanu-PF central committee member, said Minister Muchinguri’s predecessor Minister Kasukuwere had done all the paperwork to allow the RDC to hunt the elephants but after her transfer to the ministry, things came to a halt.
He said some of the international hunters they had engaged to carry out the hunts had already gone back to their countries following unexplained obstacles thrown up by the new minister’s office.
In response, Mphoko promised to engage the minister, instructing his principal director Themba Ndlovu to call her permanent secretary to make sure that all the blockages are cleared for the hunts to start.
Minister Muchinguri said the board recently told her that they will be meeting with the Tsholotsho community to discuss the hunting issue and map a way forward.
“Besides, a quota is determined by the head count of elephants. We consult the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) who have granted us permission to hunt about 500 elephants nationwide to benefit all communities affected by elephants,” she said.
The minister, who revealed that she signed a quota for Tsholotsho different from the arrangement with Cde Kasukuwere, said the other case fell under special favours and the media should be careful in reporting on them as they attract unnecessary attention. “This kind of negative publicity will not benefit us as a country. I’ve been campaigning on the international level, defending the country from the negative publicity and pressure from animal activists whose activities are based on falsehoods,” she said.