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Govt to move settlers from game parks

Augustine Mukaro

ENVIRONMENT minister Francis Nhema has reaffirmed his ministry’s position that people should not be resettled in game parks.



ans-serif”>Responding to questions in parliament last week, Nhema said government held a stakeholders’ workshop where a lot of suggestions were made on how best to run conservancies or private land where animals are kept.


A document titled “Wildlife-based Land Reform Policy” produced by the government states that the government would like to take control of all private game farms. However, in parliament last week Nhema said his ministry was yet to come up with a policy document.


Nhema said government would soon evict all people who occupied national parks and conservancies.


“The policy of government is that there is no resettlement in either national parks or conservancies,” Nhema said.


Responding to a question from Edwin Mushoriwa (MDC) on what the government was doing about the Chitsa people who had settled in Gonarezhou National Park, Nhema said they would be resettled.


“The provincial leadership is working with the Chitsa people including any other people that might have moved into Gonarezhou with a view of resettling them where we think it is appropriate and not in the national parks.”


The Chitsa people invaded Gonarezhou at the peak of fast-track land reform and have since destroyed an estimated 20 kilometres stretch of game fence. The people have apparently received support from senior government officials in the area. Their activities threaten the Gonarezhou-Gaza-Kruger Transfrontier Park.


Nhema’s comments come at a time when an estimated 85% of Zimbabwe’s registered game farmers have been forced off their properties since the inception of the chaotic land reform programme four years ago.


An Action Forum lobbying to resist government plans to natitionalise all wildlife and game ranches said the land reform programme, which kicked off with violent farm invasions in the year 2000, saw an estimated 90 registered game farmers being reduced to around 12.


“Most of the game farmers were forced to leave their farms to pave way for mostly the ruling party leadership,” one of the farmers said this week.

The Commercial Far-mers Union has been forced to close its wildlife division as all its members were forced off their properties.


“The person who was in charge of our wildlife production section has since left the country,” a CFU official said. “Virtually all members in wildlife production have been affected by the land invasions and have found it difficult to operate.”


The farmers said the chaotic land reform programme has resulted in an estimated 90% of the animals in privately owned ranches being lost to poachers. The newly resettled farmers re-sorted to poaching to supplement their food when they failed to produce enough food.


One of the farmers who spoke to the Independent said government had already started visiting provinces to correct the serious damages caused by the invasions.


“Last weekend a group of MPs together with Special Affairs minister responsible for land reform John Nkomo were in Chiredzi to access the damage,” one of the farmers said.

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