THE European Union this week sternly warned Zimbabwe it could find itself under renewed economic sanctions over the controversial granting of Save Wildlife Conservancy hunting permits to Zanu PF officials and cronies, barely a month after they were suspended.Report by Herbert Moyo
The EU in July lifted development aid restrictions but Zimbabwe, which is only due to benefit from direct economic assistance in the EU’s 2014-2020 plan for African countries, could lose out if authorities do not reverse the Save Conservancy grab. In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week EU ambassador to Harare Aldo Dell’Ariccia warned of the possibility of restoring the sanctions although he expected “reason to prevail” after meeting Tourism minister Walter Mzembi, who is expected to table the issue of reversing the hunting permits before cabinet.
“You will recall that the EU suspended the effect of the restrictive measures because of progress achieved by the GNU towards democratising Zimbabwe and respecting bilateral investments, but anytime those measures could be re-imposed if progress is reversed,” Dell’Ariccia said. A fortnight ago Dell’Ariccia raised the possibility of boycotting the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference to be co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia next August saying the parcelling out of the conservancy amounted to a violation of bilateral investment protection agreements Zimbabwe entered into with EU countries.
The vice-chairman of the Save Valley Conservancy, German national Wilfried Pabst said there could be “immediate tourism sanctions and investment warnings followed by a scaling down of EU and American governments’ support for the economic rescue of Zimbabwe”, in response to questions emailed to him. “How can foreign governments spend their tax money on a country like Zimbabwe if the government allows a wholesale slaughter in high profile tourism destinations like the Save Valley Conservancy?” asked Pabst.
The conservancy was founded in 1991 and is co-owned by groups of foreign whites and black Zimbabweans who control hunting and manage it to protect the endangered wildlife that includes elephants, rhinos and buffalo. Since its establishment, the conservancy has been run in partnership with the Agriculture and Rural Development Authority.
Pabst said Zanu PF officials like former Gutu South MP Shuvai Mahofa simply wanted to make quick profits as shown by a letter she allegedly sent to owners of Savuli Ranch in the conservancy on August 8, 2011 asking them — according to Pabst — to “please deposit at least US$20 000 from this year’s hunting in my account before Saturday August 13 2011 for my up-keep. Account details are Shuvai Mahofa, Barclays Bank, Chiredzi Branch, Account Number 25 95-6007461”.
“They have little economic background and don’t understand the principle of philanthropic investment so they think that where a successful businessman like me is involved, there must be money,” said Pabst. “Well, there isn’t and most of us would be very happy if we can just break even.”
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday condemned events in the Save Valley Conservancy saying “they send the wrong message at a time when we are preparing to host the UNWTO.” Tsvangirai met Mzembi and Environment and Natural Resources minister Francis Nhema to discuss the issue.