THE security of workers and wildlife at Hippo Pools Wilderness Camp is under serious threat from poachers and suspected Zanu PF activists who are wreaking havoc in the camp, allegedly worki
ng in cahoots with National Parks employees, the Zimbabwe Independent heard last week.
Hippo Pools Wilderness Camp is in the Shamva/Mazowe area in Mashonaland Central.
In an interview, Iain Jarvis, the executive director of Harare-based Wilderness Africa Trust (WAT) and owner of the Hippo Pools project, said unidentified people armed with rifles visited the camp a fortnight ago and fired several shots.
“Workers at the camp told me that people engaged in hunting, together with the usual National Parks personnel, had been to the camp, where they fired several rifle shots on June 15,” Jarvis said.
The National Parks and Wildlife Authority leases the no-hunting 10 000-hectare camp to Jarvis.
The camp is part of the 74 000- hectare Mufurudzi Safari Area under National Parks management.
Jarvis alleges that Cloud Masaraure, a Mufurudzi game warden, is using Zanu PF youths and local poachers to intimidate camp workers and tourists who visit the camp.
“Masaraure is definitely behind all this, and has for some time been disrupting tourism activities at the camp using Zanu PF youths,” Jarvis said.
In October 2003, Zanu PF youths from Shamva invaded the camp, forcing tourists to flee in the middle of the night.
A source privy to the goings-on in the area told this paper that in May, a group of Zanu PF youths hired a truck from neighbouring Natural Stone mine intending to launch a fresh raid on the camp.
“The truck was barred from proceeding to the camp in Shamva by locals who sympathised with the Hippo Pools project,” the source said.
Jarvis’ lawyers, Honey & Blanckenberg, on June 2 wrote Masaraure a letter warning him to desist from his activities.
“We have been instructed that at your insistence and request, you are organising members of Zanu PF to carry out yet another invasion at the Hippo Pools Wilderness Camp,” the letter said.
“If such actions are carried out, we will hold you personally responsible and institute proceedings for damages in your individual capacity.”
Jarvis said Masaraure was using the youths to destroy no-hunting signs erected around the camp.
Masaraure’s activities began in 2003. On November 5 2003, Jarvis wrote a letter to former National Parks director-general Vitalis Chadenga, alleging Masaraure was using Zanu PF youths to occupy the resort.
“So far, we have had four incidents whereby Masaraure has brought in local political people to help him solve his problems in Mufurudzi,” Jarvis said.
“I confirmed that Masaraure transported Zanu PF youths in a National Parks vehicle and used them to terrorise people who had to go into hiding.”
This paper has in its possession a copy of a letter written to National Parks and Wildlife Authority director-general, Dr Morris Mtsambiwa, by the Zimbabwe Association of Tourist and Safari Operators (Zatso) dated June 10.
“As you may well know, there was recently an indication that the invaders were trying to make another effort to claim the Hippo Pools area, but the invasion did not take place,” Zatso said.
Mtsambiwa could not be reached for comment. The Independent was told that he was attending a series of meetings this week.