Govt awaits import ban talks outcome

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TOURISM minister Walter Mzembi says government will wait for the outcome of negotiations between the Zimbabwean private sector delegation and United States government officials on the ban of the importation of sport hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe for the 2014 hunting season.

Kudzai Kuwaza

The US Fish and Wildlife Service suspended imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies taken in Tanzania and Zimbabwe during the calendar year of 2014. They cited a significant decline in the elephant population as the reason for the ban.

“In Zimbabwe, available data, though limited, indicate a significant decline in the elephant population. Anecdotal evidence, such as the widely publicized poisoning last year of 300 elephants in Hwange National Park, suggests that Zimbabwe’s elephants are … under siege,” it said.

A business delegation led by Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe chairman Emmanuel Fundira went to the United States and met several US government representatives including Secretary of State John Kerry last month. Fundira said the senators would consider their case and expected a response in July.

Mzembi told Businessdigest that the government will give negotiations a chance between the two parties before intervening.

“We are worried as the ban represents a loss of revenue,” Mzembi said.“However the matter resides between my ministry and the ministry of Environment and it will be prudent to allow efforts being made by the relevant associations to yield something before we can take the next step.”

On claims that the European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT) awards for being the best tourism destination and the world’s most attractive destination in 2014, were dubious, Mzembi said the awards were authentic.

In an interview with the state media he said: “Well fortunately I had an opportunity to talk to the European Union ambassador ( to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell’Ariccia,) directly after the awarding of these accolades to the country and I asked him very simple questions.

“First and foremost I narrated to him that were these awards coming from (Nigerian Islamist group) Boko Haram? Were they coming from (international terrorist network) Al Qaeda or from the ( United States right wing movement) Ku Klux Klan? Were they coming from the Devil himself? No they are coming from a developmental tourism agency.”

He said that the awards were not political but came from a professional and authentic outfit. He said he also asked Dell’Ariccia if he had any reservations on the citations of the award to which the ambassador said he did not.

Mzembi said he could not be “naïve” as to drag the President and Cabinet to receive awards which were not authentic without due dilligence.

Mzembi said there was a very poisonous editorial atmosphere in the country adding that President Robert Mugabe has reinforced this statement in “recent days and weeks”.

Mzembi said he could not understand how issues such as factional fights and craze over the faceless Baba Jukwa blogger dominated the media space at the expense of developmental issues.

He said gossip columns of Baba Jukwa and Sunday Mail’s Bishop Lazarus should not be allowed to trivialize “who we are as a people”, adding that “we should be excused from that nonsense”.

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