THE cash-strapped Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority is caught in a dilemma as it is being arm twisted to help set up a private wildlife sanctuary for the First Lady Grace Mugabe at Manzou Estate in Mazowe using its meager resources.
The Zimbabwe Independent is reliably informed that Zimparks is against being deeply involved in the setting up of the game park, which is a private venture.
Sources said Zimparks does not have the funds to fence the game park, whose total cost is estimated at US$1 million.
They said such a project would put a further strain on Zimparks, which was allocated only US$4 539 450 in the 2015 national budget.
Zimparks has been facing serious financial problems, which have resulted in the national authority failing to pay workers.
One major concern being raised by the Zimparks is Manzou’s capacity to accommodate the “big five” animals (elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards and buffaloes).
According to Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) chairperson Johnny Rodrigues, a game park has to be at least 10 000 hectares to accommodate the big five animals. Manzou farm is estimated to be slightly above 1 800 hectares.
Top government sources said information reaching them is that Grace plans to go into partnership with Chinese investors in gold mining and the game park at Manzou, where illegal gold panners have been mining since 2000.
“The First Lady is going into a partnership with the Chinese, who are supposed to provide the material for the fencing, while Zimparks will provide the labour for the fencing and the animals. That is the other plan which is there,” said a top government official.
Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere said a fortnight ago the National Parks had taken control of Manzou farm, formerly known as Arnold Farm, and would soon be translocating the “big five” animals from other sanctuaries to the game park.
National parks last week on Tuesday night released more than 100 Zebras into Manzou farm.
When the Independent visited Manzou this week, villagers could be seen chasing away the Zebras, which have been destroying their crops.
The lawyers representing the villagers have filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court seeking an order compelling the state to remove the Zebras.
Villagers are living in fear after a team from Zimbabwe National Statistics office (ZimStat) visited Manzou on Monday to conduct a survey under the name Zimbabwe HIV Impact Assessment (ZIMPHIA).
However, the villagers saw this as government stepping up its intimidation tactics.
“There are people who came here on Monday claiming to be ZimStat officers, saying they were conducting a census nationwide in order to put up clinics close to where we stay,” said Chipo Lakanya, one of the Villagers.
“We do not know if we should be counted or not because these people seem to only come when our houses have been destroyed and we suspect they could be part of the group of people who want to evict us who would have come to check the situation,” she said.
However, Gift Farau, who was also part of the Zimstat team, said they had introduced themselves as census officers because that was the name they felt the villagers would understand.
“We used the name census office because that is the name which people from the rural areas are most familiar with as compared to ZimStat. However, we did not promise them anything pertaining the setting up of a health care centre,” said Farau.
ZimStat director-general Dzinotizei Mutasa also confirmed Zimstat was currently conducting a listing programme for the Ministry of Health.