Pamela Shumba Senior Reporter
SOME top Zanu-PF officials who grabbed part of Save Conservancy are still occupying the animal sanctuary, more than a week after the party’s Politburo said they should vacate. The Politburo last week directed that individuals who were already beneficiaries of the land reform programme must relinquish their claim to Save Conservancy in favour of those who are yet to benefit.
Former Zanu-PF Masvingo provincial chairperson Cde Lovemore Matuke, one of the beneficiaries, told Chronicle yesterday that he would not react to media reports.
“It’s not official. I just read it in the papers. We’ve not received communication from the Politburo or the government. We will only react when we receive official correspondence from the relevant authorities,” said Cde Matuke.
War veteran and Buhera South lawmaker Cde Joseph Chinotimba said he had also not received communication from the Politburo, but was quick to point out that he had not gone there for a while.
“They never came to me. I saw it in the papers. I expected to receive official communication from the Zanu-PF Central Committee or Politburo to advise me of the new developments, but they’ve not come,” said Cde Chinotimba.
He added: “The truth is that I was trying to be a beneficiary as a war veteran and a citizen of this country, but I failed due to corruption that was taking place there.
“That said, if anybody tells you that they saw me at Save Conservancy they would be lying. I was trained to be disciplined and I stopped going there when I was told to back off. I don’t want to be involved in corruption.
“Only a few people, especially whites, have benefited from the conservancy. I therefore don’t want my name to be dragged into this saga. I have nothing to do with it.”
In 2012, Cde Chinotimba defended parcelling out part of the conservancy to himself, saying he wanted to finance his farming ventures from proceeds of the safari operation.
The National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority had previously granted 25-year land leases and hunting licences to several top Zanu-PF officials, including Cde Matuke, former Masvingo Governor Titus Maluleke, war veterans Cde Chinotimba and Shuvai Mahofa, Lands Minister Douglas Mombeshora and Zanu-PF central committee member Enock Porusingazi.
The Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Deputy Minister Tongai Muzenda as well as other sitting and former lawmakers such as Ailess Baloyi, Abraham Sithole, Samson Mukanduri and Noel Mandebvu also benefited.
Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi had opposed the parcelling out of the conservancy, while the then Minister of Environment Francis Nhema defended the move.
The parliamentary committee on natural resources had also opposed the earlier takeover of the animal sanctuary saying it did not support broad-based economic empowerment.
Running along the banks of the Save River, the conservancy – respected as a leader in wildlife management and research – is collectively controlled by international investors, white ranchers who formerly ran cattle on the land, local black businessmen and hundreds of rural farmers.
The conservancy covers 3,400 square kilometres in the country’s arid south-east – 150km south of Mutare.
It is a habitat for elephant, zebra, giraffe, as well as the nation’s second largest surviving population of endangered black rhinoceros. The area also supports an array of African antelope and most species of birds and small animals.
“It’s a working example of how something really special can be a success, by including all sectors of the community, especially the rural poor who have previously got nothing out of wildlife,” says Wilfried Pabst, a German businessman who is vice-chair of the conservancy.