A PUBLIC campsite in the heart of Zambezi National Park will be centre-stage in a fight over the rights of Zimbabweans to their own backyard.
Siansimba, a public camp nestled on the banks of the Zambezi River, was among eight public campsites understood to have been allocated to private companies in the area by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) to date.
That would leave only one campsite available to the public in Zambezi National Park, Kandahar, although rumours indicate it may also have been allocated.
Another three concessions have been granted at public campsites in nearby Chamabondo National Park.
Local Victoria Falls lawyer, Paul Connolly, is bringing a lawsuit against the company behind the Siansimba development, Tusker Investments.
His application states that the allocation of Siansimba contravenes the constitutional rights of the Zimbabwean public.
Vic Falls Enviro Watch chairperson Tony Peel said the allocation raised serious concerns.
“This sets a dangerous precedent for further unsustainable development within the park. When will these allocation sites end? The need for a comprehensive Zambezi Park Plan is now greater than ever.
“The site is already allocated as a public campsite and turning it into an exclusive site contravenes the National Parks Act. An alternative site should be sought.”
Peel reiterated that Vic Falls Enviro Watch did not have serious concerns about the environmental impact, or the allocation of concessions in other areas of ZimParks, but said it “strongly encourages dialogue between all parties concerned, to find compromises and meaningful solutions” to the allocation of the Siansimba site.
SaveSiansimba spokesperson, Chenai Dodzo, says the battle is not about preventing all concessions.
“This is more about public spaces. There are fewer and fewer spots that we can go to. Where does it stop?
“National Parks is our heritage. Why should I have to pay US$200, US$300, US$400 a night to go and access something that is my right?”
Dodzo says Zimbabweans need to speak up now if they want to protect public campsites.
“Zimbabweans should be very concerned.”
Zambezi National Park could not be reached for comment. A representative from Tusker Investments said that as the issue was going before the courts it could unfortunately not comment. — victoriafalls24.