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Safari operators cry foul over permits

DELAYS by government in issuing hunting permits have prejudiced the Save Conservancy of millions of United States dollars in lost business.

Staff Writer

Property owners in the rich wildlife conservancy said an eight-month delay in issuing them with permits has cost them millions in lost earnings and also projected the country as an unfriendly destination for investment.

“All foreign-owned properties received their hunting permits although some eight months later than required causing serious damage to their safari businesses and Zimbabwe’s external reputation as during the eight-month delay no business was possible,” said Wilfried Pabst, who is vice-chairperson of the conservancy, in an interview.

Although Pabst and other safari operators in the sanctuary, regarded as one of the largest in the world, could not give the exact amounts lost in business, he said it ran into millions of dollars given the high value of hunting the big four animals, namely the lion, elephant, buffalo and leopard.

According to information given to this paper on Wednesday by Johnny Rodrigues, chairperson for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, it costs a maximum of US$30 000 each to hunt a lion or an elephant and a maximum of US$22 000 each for a leopard or a buffalo.

Without elaborating Rodrigues said greed caused the delays or failure to give licences to the competent safari operators thereby impacting negatively on business as well as conservation efforts in wildlife.

While foreign owners are said to have received their permits, local white owners have reportedly still not received theirs — a development which they allege is part of government efforts to arm-twist them into ceding a stake as part of the controversial indigenisation policy to empower blacks.

“All Zimbabwe-owned properties are without hunting or operating permits. This is a blackmail to force acceptance of a highly illegal and improper indigenisation idea proposed and fought strongly against by our chiefs as well as Zimbabwean operators,” said one of the operators.

The indigenisation plans were first communicated in January by Environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who said white Zimbabweans should cede up to 51% of their properties in accordance with the law.

On Wednesday, Kasukuwere said although they may have been delays with respect to the hunting permits, government had made so much progress in addressing problems in the conservancy.

“We should not be looking back, but moving forward. We have done so much and covered a lot of ground to resolve problems at Save.
“Surely, there is progress even though there may have been problems.”

He also defended the indigenisation plans saying, “everything we are doing is premised on the indigenisation laws of the country”.

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