HUNTING has been banned in the Gwayi Valley Conservancy to stem the plunder of wildlife amidst protests by ranch owners many of whom hold influential positions in the ruling
party, the Zimbabwe Independent has heard.
The ban on all hunting of game in the area was made by National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director-general, Morris Mutsambiwa, last week.
It comes amidst concerns from conservancy organisations over the rampant plunder of wildlife that includes lions and over 300 elephants protected under a Presidential decree of 1990.
The National Parks directive has met with stiff resistance from safari owners in the area. The operators have already written a letter to the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Francis Nhema, complaining bitterly about the ban.
“It is important to note that resettled farmers did not empower themselves arbitrarily to carry out sport hunting, they were empowered by National Parks under SI 26/1998,” says the letter. “Similarities between what is attributed to your office and negative stories doing the rounds on the Internet are of a disturbing nature,” it says.
“The sources of the negative stories are the former white landowners and they seem to be getting collaboration from your office. Whose interests are you serving?”
The ban on hunting leaves photographic safaris and game viewing as the only activities permitted in the area.
The Gwayi Valley Conservancy borders the Hwange National Park and safari ranches in the area have been allocated to new farmers under the government’s A2 model.
A list supplied to the Independent with names of A2 beneficiaries in the area indicates that most of them have links toZanu PF. Theyinclude theparty’s cent-ral committee member AliceNkomo in Lot 3 Dete Valley, the party’s provincial chairman for Matabeleland North, Jacob Mudenda in Sekumi Estates, Zimbabwe’s high commissioner to Zambia Cain Matema in a sub-section of Lot 3 Dete Valley, and ZBC reporter Prisca Utete who acquired part of Sekumi Estates.
Dr Christopher Zishiri, chief ve-terinary officer in Matabeleland North, got Karna Block East. Therest of the beneficiaries are traditional chiefs who include Chief Mabikwa and Chief Joseph Dingani.
A company registered as Eternity Trading, whose director is listed as J Moyo, runs Lot 2 Dete Valley.
The Zimbabwe Conservancy Trust has also named Matabeleland North governor Obert Mpofu, in one of its reports, as one of the beneficiaries licensed to conduct hunts in the area.
According to a small-scale safari operator in the area, the directive to cease all hunting in the area has incensed the “new farmers”, some of whom are said to be operating with fake hunting quotas.
Hunting quotas are issued at the beginning of each hunting season and outline the type and number of animals a safari operator can hunt in a single season.
“There has been systematic hunting using fake quotas and in some instances, some of the quotas signed by National Parks were blank while some of the quotas had no client information and in some instances some quotas do not state on what farm the hunt was taking place,” said a conservationist monitoring the region.