Greasing up the Slippery Slide


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Field A_2010_07_29_0436_250x375pxZimbabwe’s elections have come and gone. We all know the results and most will agree that they yielded more than a few surprises; within both party camps. Something is just not right and all the analysts worth their salt are struggling to come to terms with what really happened; and just how sweeping is the victory. Few are discussing the consequences. Clearly the election was over-rigged creating skews where they should never exist, but some will suggest that the losing side were really caught on the back foot by a cunning, methodical and experienced old fox.

The sham is not so much the fact that the winning party usurped the vote, but rather that a now grumbling opposition is found so badly wanting. They were outmanoeuvred or outclassed in more ways than one. Principally, it was abundantly clear to the wider audience that supposed reforms were needed before any fair election could ever take place.

To venture into an election without these reforms was political suicide, and they were warned. The now ruling party had absolute and utter control over the electoral process. This provided the necessarily biased infrastructure needed for the winning party to manipulate to its heart’s content; from voter registration, through to organisation and the count.

The platform had thus been set for biased maladministration. It ensured that those contesting were denied sight of the voter’s roll. Voter registration and roll manipulation are considered the core of the vote scam and no bias could be determined before voting began.

Both disenfranchisement and false enfranchisement (duplicated, deceased and centenarian voters) saw to it that the opposing parties could never achieve an outright majority save for securing a few party strongholds. Voter registration in rural areas amounted to 99.97 percent of eligible voters (compared with 2012 national census figures). That is an incredible feat in itself!

The campaign saw contesting parties denied access to National media, petty attempts to prevent opposition rallies being held, and even refused real access by one party to the other party’s strongholds. The thuggery was absent. It was going to be a peaceful election, but while the thugs were reined in, seemingly, the fraudsters were released with a vengeance; scheming and planning to scoop power back to the “liberation” party.

Some say the MDC formations did not smell the rat, yet everyone was pointing to where it lay festering. Instead they were quaffing the sweet fragrance of victory and indeed relishing in their false sense of triumph. Never underestimate the enemy in African politics.

On the day, many legitimate voters were denied the vote and sent away from polling stations, mostly in opposing party, urban strongholds. There was a heavy and unprecedented incidence of assisted voting, for alleged illiterates in Africa’s most literate nation. And then there was the bussing; the movement of youths in large numbers to vote in several locations; false voter registration slips and all the trimmings of the rook. Finally, there was outright denial of results being broadcast from individual polling stations, lest this exposed the eventual swindle.

Apart from a few party die-hards, everyone is saying that the vote was rigged… the kleptocracy has successfully enforced its will upon the people. Those who believe otherwise are rather slow on the uptake. Even ZANU(PF) are worried that perhaps it was over-rigged by all the tell tale signs now being exposed! Did they really expect to win in the territory of the Gukurahundi massacres? They did. The winning party announced very early in its campaign that they would achieve as much as 90 percent of the poll with some degree of confidence. Did they know something then that bolstered their confidence? Whatever, they achieved a devastating defeat of the would-be aspirants.

Early post election whimpers for a regime of passive resistance were just not going to hold water. Those people who would perhaps care were disoriented and shocked with the poll outcome. A sense of being let down by their own permeated and suddenly the knives were being drawn, not for the wicked kleptocrats, but for those who led them to defeat.

There is a to and fro of opinion as to whether the MDC-T should take up their seats. It is a case of condemning the election, yet taking up the resultant parliamentary seats. Not many among the party faithful are sticking their heads above the parapet just yet… so just how does one expect the people, the man in the street, to cast the first stone of passive resistance? Politicians seem to be leading from the rear here and clearly they have not strategized to the optimum. The storm troops are waiting for any resistance.

Election observer parties from the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) see the election as free and fair and their judgement will not be reserved for long. In contrast the non-partisan Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) is exposing the poll for what it really was. It is perhaps a foregone conclusion that the submissions to the Constitutional Court will fail. Can Zimbabweans presume a different outcome from what many consider to be partisan courts? They are yet to hand down judgements to earlier election contests. There are those who hold hope despite the odds.

Thus the issue for many is not whether opposition will upset the apple cart through the Constitutional Court; whether the AU and SADC yield to the reality of it all and call for a new round; or perhaps what happens within the losing party’s senior ranks; but rather how the winning party is going to measure up to its election manifesto. More critically for some is the scale by which it handles the selective xenophobia, resource nationalisation and outright racism by its far right.

Nobody can come to grips with the fact that Zimbabweans, by hook or by crook, have brought back into power a party which has bad economic form. It has a track record for destruction; self enrichment and gross patronage of the ‘chefs’. The markets responded negatively within hours of electoral results. There was even a run on the banks. The prognosis is not good. This seems to suggest that Zimbabweans may have been prostituted at the polls and they have inadvertently greased up the slippery slide once more.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!

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Once More Unto the Breach


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIThere comes a time when the ideals of a past revolution become a terrible wart on the face of democracy, as mythical as this can be in Africa. That time arrived in Zimbabwe well over a decade ago. The wart has grown bigger. It is uglier now as it erupts and oozes its vile liberation muck, but people have become used to that; having been sucked into its propaganda vortex. Or so it would seem, as we venture into yet another round of nuttiness, which we refer to as elections.

Print, electronic and social media is abuzz with commentary, opinion and sometimes even satirical retort about the forthcoming poll. People set aside their inhibitions and take courage in the narrow window of seeming freedom offered at this time, yet there remains an air of suppression, an uncanny, determined focus, and a yet stronger will by some to retain power, come whatever cost. And we are sure this is not the will of the people.

There is no pulling out the stops now. Conceivably, every trick in the book will be used to ensure our erstwhile revolutionaries retain their power. It is their right, so it would seem, and thus irrevocably due to them. So who dare challenge the status quo and why the folly of elections? Well, in effect, ‘democratic’ elections are done merely to pull the wool over the eyes of otherwise gullible democracies who preach condescendingly of their free values. Africa is challenged by democracy.

So, once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. What evil schemes will erupt , ooze and spoil genuine choice? The Presidential Decree for an early election will most certainly have placed the opposition on its back feet, despite the paper tiger, SADC, calling for extensions in time. Zimbabwe’s Courts put the finger up to SADC.

Such prolongations were critical to ensure proper voter registration for a start, not to mention amendment to electoral legislation and other critical reforms. Millions of first time voters, the young people of Zimbabwe, and aliens will have been disenfranchised; fundamentally, sectors of the community which would reap positively for the opposition.

A more sinister aspect of the call for an early election was that of a poll before security sector reforms, supposedly to ensure a free and fair election, if ever that can happen in Africa. Such reforms are foremost at the heart of the opposition, for there is little doubt about the patronage and support of the Generals for the old school revolutionaries. The military are expected to play a rather biased role in covert campaigning for the liberation party. Should they fail in that objective, there is mooted suggestion of coup!

The mechanics of what one can only describe as a half cocked and shambolic voter registration abound with yet more suspicion of evil being done. This is considered the base of the rigging yet to come. Voter roll transparency has been all but forbidden in what appears to be an obvious agenda, following an interdict against a local research company.

The xenophobic machinations of the liberation party were never present when employing a foreign company, of apparently dubious repute, to handle aspects of voter registration, and who stand accused of tampering with the lists. The company is said to have ‘form’ for Zambian voter roll manipulations, but deny local involvement in the election process. Several impartial Zimbabwean firms could have qualified for the task; so much for indigenisation.

Was there trickery too in the just run Special Election vote for members of the security forces? A special vote is offered for those who, ostensibly, will be on duty on election day, and thus unable to vote. Really? Nevertheless, it could have been a revealing test of the waters of security force sympathies or otherwise, were the exercise not bungled. The opposition were quick to smell a rat when 69,000 police officers applied for the special vote, almost double the Treasury payroll figures.

The initiative turned out to be a shambles with the ZEC shooting itself in the foot by failing to deliver ballot papers, especially in those areas where the vote would clearly have fallen, perhaps, in opposition favour. Now it is suggested special vote candidates may be able to vote again, despite laws to the contrary. Such chicanery we are used to.

Now the question arises, will the expected chaos (a prognosis based on the Special Vote exercise) prevail in the main election of 6 million participants, and thus be the veil under which a rigging exercise can take place? The general modus operandi will be to deny marginal areas voting papers and slow down the process. We have seen it all before, can we now expect an honest poll?

One may get the impression that perhaps in the final analysis things are going to be skewed. The opposition pacts are already chirping ‘foul play’ as if their fate is sealed. This makes for an interesting study in opposition strategy. There is none. Memories are just so short.

While there are chasms that divide the two MDC parties, their unity or pre-election coalitions could only improve their odds. Their origins are born out of the same philosophies; they both want change in governance; and they share many common issues and agendas, although Welshman Ncube may deny this. It seems very peculiar that they just cannot seem to come together to break the hegemony. The point is that in the final analysis one of the opposition parties may well have to make up a coalition government. Will this be with the other MDC or with blood on their hands?

If the incumbent* liberation party is the popular choice of the people, then this scenario is simply academic. But the general consensus is that this is not the case. People want change, yet those who could potentially deliver such change, in one fell swoop, seem incapable of engineering the platform to achieve this.

Zimbabwe is predictable in its unpredictability and perhaps the sway of the vote will fall into opposition hands. Given the natural tribal patronage overlay, the urban versus rural vote swing, the enlightened opposition versus dogmatic loyal peasant support, much is actually predicable.

Clearly, the odds are against opposition success, if the vote has been or it is intended to be rigged, and we should remember the history here. This situation can only give rise to run-offs or, worse still, absolute defeat of a split opposition. The opposition boycotted the last run-off: an own goal much to their peril. Will one or other opposition party be strong enough to take victory? Time only will tell, but the uncertainly could surely have been turned into certainty with a few commitments and a simple shake of hands.

* incumbent in so far as it holds sway in critical Government Ministries

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!

PRISM and Tempora: Unholy Tapping Alliance or Portcullis


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIIt seems rather strange that there is such indignant protest that the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States has been trolling social media, gathering intelligence. Even more umbrageous objection arises from the allegation that some of this intelligence is being shared with Unites States’ allies, principally the United Kingdom. The pinnacle dissent in this debacle seems to be that your trustworthy and friendly social networking site has allowed ‘Uncle Sam’ backdoor access to all your data, which of course they all deny.

Let us smell the salts here. Intelligence gathering has recorded biblical roots from the days when Moses sent twelve men to spy on the land of Canaan. Spying is labelled by some as the second oldest profession, but, perhaps, commands less respect than the first. While war with ones foes has been the catalyst of espionage motivation generally, home revolution, subversion and civil dissension have turned the practice inward, thus targeting citizen opinion.

The core of good intelligence interception is communication. Message snatching has moved from bribing or disabling the messenger to sophisticated methods of “wire-tapping” designed to monitor a broader spectrum of interests and thus glean more intelligence. Electronic eavesdropping forms a major part of most intelligence operations the world over today. The intelligence agencies have moved with the technology and social networking just had to fall within their sites.

Back in the 1960s the Western allies introduced ECHELON, the global electronic eves-dropping system; a late Cold War need to intercept then COMECON military and diplomatic communications traffic. With the waning of the Cold War, ECHELON turned its attention to the collection and analysis of private and commercial communications using radio, microwave, cellular, fibre-optic, cyber and celestial (satellite) communications, known by the acronym SIGINT. It continues to operate today and we have known about it for years. The Chinese are doing it, as are the Russians.

Now we have PRISM bursting onto the world stage, thanks in part to whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who is current sought by the United States. PRISM (described as an activity designator – thus the acronym SIGAD) is a complimentary process of the wider reigning ECHELON and a primary source of US and sometimes Western intelligence. The process of activity designation prioritises intercepts based on their worth, perhaps through a process of key word/phrase analysis. Thus, most of the drivel we write hits the waste bins of the NSA. The ‘good stuff’ is pumped into massive non linear databases, making the GDR Stasi’s Department 26 look like kindergarten.

According to leaked NSA documents, social networking giants (Facebook, Google, Skype and Yahoo were named) and some of the big five (Microsoft and Apple included) allowed direct access to their servers and databases by the PRISM system! All deny the access, one stating that they were ‘really protective of the information our users have provided’ – attributed to Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s Director of Engineering. Yet the United States government obtained over three billion items from cyber communications networks in just March 2013 alone. Where did it come from?

Edward Snowden and those documents he leaked suggest United Kingdom complicity in the scheme of things, yet British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, re-acting to the PRISM exposé, told Parliament,

“Our agencies practice and uphold U.K. law at all times… To intercept the content of any individual’s communications in the UK requires a warrant signed personally by me, the Home Secretary, or by another Secretary of State. This is no casual process. Every decision is based on extensive legal and policy advice. Warrants are legally required to be necessary, proportionate and carefully targeted, and we judge them on that basis.”

Who is the Pinocchio here? The British SIGINT operation at GCHQ, which feeds United Kingdom intelligence, is tapping into fibre-optic communication links and drawing data for analysis over a 30 day holding period in an intelligence operation called Tempora. This is not a suspect targeted operation. The information, from both innocent citizens and security suspects, is shared with the NSA in dubious exchanges, perhaps for PRISM intelligence. Is this legal, Mr Hague, or is it just another ‘porky’ offered to cover your backs?

Be very afraid if you are a terrorist or a criminal so naïve as to chat about your dirty deeds in cyberspace or on any legitimate communications network. Big brother is really watching now. We know that, and it may not be legal, but really people who complain the most about privacy violations by social networks are in fact their own worst enemies. It is these same people who share their achievements, plans and wishes, if not there inner-most secrets, in social media. The message here is keep your private data to yourselves, but surely this would defeat the object of social networking.

While some may dillydally innocently, others spin sinister plots and revolution foolishly oblivious to reality on these sophisticated networks. We have come to trust the integrity of our communications platforms and social networks; and we clearly believe we should enjoy some right to privacy. This is a mythical right, since the wicked World cannot work like that in an age of fundamentalist terrorism.

PRISM and other similar systems, like Tempora, have built up complex profiles about you, but you only have yourself to blame for gullibly feeding the system. Our sudden indignity about all this snooping does amuse, and must surely rank in the naivety stakes with those who believe the myth of the tooth fairy. We know it is happening and this makes it all the more nauseating that filthy politicians choose to deny the instruments of their intelligence gathering apparatus.

The Passing of a Matriarch


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIOur fleeting exchanges with nature allow us to reflect on how we handle the real world, but sometimes we are jolted into a sense of reality when nature turns on itself. A short while ago I was privileged to spend yet another period in Mana Pools and be with the wild. For a few years now, I have been an occasional observer of the most amazing union between the ‘grandmother’ lioness of Mana Pools and her issue, a healthy lioness we shall refer to as the ‘daughter’.

Incredibly, the older lioness has survived these last few years almost entirely due to the presence of her offspring despite the duo being ostracised by the main prides of the park. The old girl was toothless, incapable of hunting, and reliant on the younger animal. It is estimated the old girl is about 16 years of age. Each visit there is a mission to find this couple, a personal charge in a way, to be sure the old girl is all right.

Grandma Lioness_2013_06_02_9122_768x474px

Occasionally there are additions to this mini pride, in the form of cubs, usually two, and it is delightful to spend time with them, if one can. Last year there was a single surviving cub, named Bertie. Sadly, the record of survival for cubs is slim. While the dominant males from the main prides sire these cubs, they become easily victim to a nasty trait in paternal males and other predators in the park.

On my recent arrival at my normal ‘digs’ in the park, Goliath Safaris, I was told that the old girl had last been sighted a couple of days back, but that she had been deserted by the daughter. In all probability the grandmother would have succumbed by then. Saddened by this news, the days that followed were spent mostly on lion spoor, looking for a pride we know as the ‘Spice Girls’, or the males, ‘The Backstreet Boys’, ever hopeful we would stumble upon the tracks of the grandmother and daughter.

Our first encounter with the pride was a small hunting group, a skittish bunch of young males and a female, but they didn’t stick around to greet us. In fact we had little chance with a young bull elephant seemingly chasing them off his patch. A little later in the day, approaching noon, we received a report of a sighting of the old girl. Excited and eager, we trekked to the approximate location and set off looking for more spoor, but no sign was found. We had been given poor directions.

While travelling back to camp for our siesta, we were blessed with an accidental sighting of the old girl from the vehicle, quite near where we had seen that flighty pride on the hunt. We stopped and moved in on foot to observe her. The old girl had aged so much since last seeing her… she was definitely on her last legs, thin, bone structure protruding, exhausted; just wanting to lay peacefully and die. She offered us a permeating growl, akin to the purr of a Harley Davidson, but was really quite disinterested with the invasion of her space. No sign of the daughter or any cubs was apparent.

Astonishingly, there lay nearby the lioness a carcass of a dead honey badger, a ferocious little beast which would never have been easy prey and which, clearly, the old girl had neither hunted nor killed. Was this an opportunity discovery? Not likely, scavengers abound here. Then, how did the old girl manage to acquire this food? Did that jumpy hunting pride leave her with this food? We’ll never know, but I would like to think they did.

We sat a short distance from her, tolerating the occasional soft roar and growl… I know the others, like me, were silently bidding the old matriarch farewell; her survival was numbered in hours rather than days… a few tears were scuffed away. So strange how we build such compassion for these beasts, which would happily rip us apart in their prime, but we do. There is a telepathy of acknowledgement; almost a psychic inner feeling between man and beast. We slowly, yet sadly, withdrew… this was our last sighting of the grand old lady of Mana.

A few days later, we had stumbled across a large pack of wild dogs and spend time with them, photographing the pack and individuals… our sojourn was interrupted by a large lioness moving through the area, in the late afternoon, offering a deep penetrating calls which would be heard for miles, perhaps seeking other members of the pride.

The dogs moved defensively towards her in a large pack and we followed some distance behind. The solitary lioness broke into an opening and showed herself. It was the ‘daughter’ without doubt! We will never know if she was calling for her mother or perhaps already mourning her loss, but clearly she is alone now. There was no sign of Bertie. The dogs retreated as if offering respect.

There is no confirmation of the old girl’s passing, I pray it was peaceful. Hopefully the daughter will integrate back into the main-steam prides of Mana and continue her normal life, else her own survival will be brief. Her fascinating dedication to the upkeep of her mother, against many harsh odds, is a truly wonderful and exceptional demonstration of the human-like love and bonding that all we know so well.

Rest in Peace old lady of Mana.

Plagiarism: Curse of the Artist


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIThere is a lot of photo plagiarism going on in social media forums. Photographers really need to understand the risks and, perhaps,  if they display their work, accept that this is the nouveau way. Or should they? People will steal your work and use it to bask in a new found glory; a showing off of a supposedly new talent, which they never really had.  They might even making money from your work. They follow in the footstep of the music pirates… everyone seems to be doing it, so maybe it must be right. It is not! Simply put, it is the theft or filching of one’s intellectual property, and most often an infringement of the author’s copyright.

According to the plagiarism dot org web site the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary the term “plagiarize” means:

to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own; to use (another’s production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft; to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

While perhaps flattering to the photographer, only in a way, just too many people seem to be content to share or purloin the work of others. They often do so in their own name, by simply failing to credit original authors. They are part of an unfortunate sect who, clearly, are unable create their own content and who can only fail to bring new and original material to the social media platforms. They would if they could, but social media almost dictates that these poor people must post something to at least become acknowledged or ‘expert’ and, hence, well known, if not popular. They are doing this on the backs of credible authors and originators. Social media never intended that this be done on the wicked altar of plagiarism and theft.

Photography is never the simple click of a shutter button… there is so much more to it. Your average photographers will have invested heavily in learning their craft and in acquiring their equipment. They will have expended time and money to get on location for the shoot, and then taken frame after frame until they get it right. A good photographer will admit to a ratio of one brilliant image in possibly a thousand… hitting the photographic sweet spot just once in as many minutes, if not hours of dedicated photography.

Yet some hapless soles, devoid of creativity and capacity to originate, will spend just seconds copying your work and passing it on as their own. Some will destroy a perfectly good image with crudely styled motivational messages, often plagiarized too, and then offer the work as their own, shamelessly oblivious of their destructive prowess. No reference is made to the original author, the source of the material stolen, nor any consideration given to copyright. Some go so far as to rub out obvious copyright notices.

Digital photography has led to an explosion of graphic material on the internet. This is healthy. It allows the photographer to share his or her work and the viewer or beholder to marvel, enjoy and make recollections which are pleasing to the heart. Most photographers see the power of the internet to allow exposure of their work, and often this leads to commercial considerations. This is all very honorable, until somebody decides to claim the image as his or her own for gratuitous purposes or profit.

Photographers understand the ethics when handling the work of others. It is simple. Credit the original artist if you can, and almost certainly credit the source of the material. To not do so infers you are passing the work on as your own, that is, stealing.  There is just too much ignorance being demonstrated by offenders.  Almost without exception stealing is a crime across the globe and ignorance is no defense. Surely, it is time the social media networks came to understand this and take action against offenders who pursue this filthy crime. The are all providing the platform.  Plagiarists should also learn to understand.

You can help… there is a petition to be signed and you could join a social media group in support of this campaign.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!

Mana Pools: Constitutional Protection of the Environment


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIThe proposed Zimbabwean Constitution has specific reference to environmental rights in a clause that will give every person a right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being. Every Zimbabwean has the right to the environment being protected for the benefit of present and future generations.

The Constitution proposes that measures be taken to: prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development. This is music in the ears for some, but perhaps it does not go far enough. Mere measures to protect our natural heritage, the flora, and all creatures great and small are not exactly a right. It should be. Things other than humans should have rights. Humans seem not to be bequeathed the right to the protection of their national heritage either.

Could you imagine a new, say fundamentalist, regime coming into power, which, in its wisdom decides that the Great Zimbabwe was never constructed by the indigenous people after all, but rather by some foreigners from the east or the north who had come to take our gold, ivory and reap the nation of its people for enforced slavery, back in the 11th Century. They decide in this realisation and in their moment of new found glory that the monument of the Great Zimbabwe should be levelled to the ground and destroyed. As ludicrous as that may seem, the origins of this national edifice are still not substantially agreed. Great Zimbabwe is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Something similar to this is actually happening in Mali right now. Sites, previously declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO are now being desecrated by religious fundamentalists who wield the power of the gun. Islamists, supposedly connected with Al Queda, who grabbed control of Northern Mali, including Timbuktu, believe centuries old shrines are idolatrous and have already destroyed seven mausoleums. The politicians of the day, whatever their cause, have effectively destroyed some of the national heritage in Timbuktu belonging to the people of Mali. It is of course an absolute disgrace.

Zimbabwe is blessed with five World Heritage Sites, three of them cultural and two of them natural. They are, in addition to Great Zimbabwe National Monument: the Khami Ruins National Monument; Matobo Hills; Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari areas; and the great Mosi-ao-Tunya (or Victoria Falls). One wonders, of course, just how much protection these sites have in the face of radical politics or greedy commerce.

The authors of the proposed constitution have certainly made provisions, but they are diluted. For example, all state institutions and every citizen must endeavour to preserve and protect Zimbabwe’s heritage. Alas, both institutions and citizens are susceptible to the seven deadly sins, particularly where a regime rules with impunity to the rule of law. Many will say we have been there and some elements of government still pursue the rotten ethos.

Traditional leaders have a duty to preserve their culture, traditions, history and heritage. One might ask if in fact this obligation is somewhat adulterated, since the chiefs have mostly fallen in with the more gratuitous party’s gravy train. The risk is that only a one-sided culture, history and heritage will remain intact, with the destruction of that which is against the grain of current party philosophy, much like the happenings in Timbuktu.

Today, some citizens of Zimbabwe, perhaps aided and assisted by those in politics, seem to be out of sync with the good intentions of the proposed constitution already. They aim to satisfy their apparent commercial greed and gluttony (the type which allows one mining magnate to buy up numerous multi-million dollar properties south of the Limpopo) in desecrating a World Heritage Site, Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari areas. They intend to do open cast mining of two river lines through the area. This seriously threatens our national and natural heritage.

Our would-be mining moguls seem oblivious, with their poor intentions, to their moral obligations they have to the citizens of Zimbabwe, the nation and the World at large. Perhaps this band of merry diggers should take stock of what they propose to do and relate this to the environmental needs of present and future generations. They should call it a day… if they are allowed to pursue their objectives no one can say where it will all end. There are many sandy riverbeds in Zimbabwe.

You can help… there is a petition to be signed and you could join a social media group in support of this campaign.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!

Zambezi Valley Eco-System Threatened by Mining


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIConservationists are up in arms, again, and quite rightly so. The latest gambit is that of the intended prospecting and exploration for heavy mineral sand deposits (HMSD) of two rivers: the Rukomechi River, along the western boundary of Mana Pools National Park and the Chewore River, along the eastern boundary of the Sapi Safari area. Both of these rivers are tributaries to the great Zambezi River and wind across the Zambezi Valley which is within the declared UNESCO Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve. Mana Pools is a UNESCO World Heritage site, yet mining magnets are just about to rip it apart.

There is a long history of environmental activism opposed to mineral sands mining and for good reason too. Heavy mineral sands are referred to as a class of ore deposits yielding minerals such as zirconium, titanium, thorium, and tungsten; not to mention diamonds and other gems. Precious metals may also be harvested and, with alluvial gold being not uncommon in the Highveld to the south, perhaps this is their ugly objective. Clearly, if prospectors have diamonds in mind, we know exactly in which direction this is going, and even which filthy politicians will fill their pockets.

This is the dire reality for conservationists; the underhand world of patronage politics is hard at play and usually gets its way with impunity. The indigenous venture which is at the core of this intended exploration is a company whose principals are apparently well connected in political circles and who, some reports suggest, have made much out of recent ignoble initiatives to indigenous mining in Zimbabwe. The influence of the party faithful in these matters should give all a cause for concern.

The Zambezi River – a fragile ecosystem about to be pillaged – Photograph by Andrew Field – Simply Wild Photography

Exploiting HMSD is usually in the form of ruinous strip mining and probably the most destructive method of excavation in conservation terms. Mining these resources will result in the two river lines being ripped up, down to bedrock basically, and heavy, noisy machinery and processing lines moving down each riverbed with its commensurate destruction of the flora and fauna in its path, not to mention the toxic filth of such process. Progressive miners may attempt to rehabilitate the ecosystem they usually destroy with ecologically similar species, but Zimbabwe’s nouveau indigenous miners have no good track record of this, or of pouring funds back into the local community.

Even more concerning is the fact that the Ministry of Mines has actually issued prospecting and exploration licences to a private concern to conduct business in a national park or, worse, a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, apparently without environmental impact assessment. What were they thinking? The area was set aside for the benefit of all Zimbabweans, and the world alike, to conserve the unique flora and fauna; and this purposefully excludes any human habitation or industry. Do you smell a rat yet?

Mana Pools is not without its recent controversy, involving a seemingly dodgy or at least an opaque deal, perhaps involving foreigners, politicians and those in trust or authority, along the way. More recently, construction commenced on a 24-bed Mana Pools Safari Lodge in an area that is considered environmentally delicate; despite strong objections and protestation by conservationists who know their business. Developers seem to have hung their success on a pithy, sometimes incorrect, ill-informed, and far from in-depth environmental assessment study. Clearly that rat is quite rotten.

The problem seems to be that those who protest the most about these invasions are seen or perceived as minority beneficiaries of what is about to be destroyed by those who now hold those positions of trust and authority. The current flush of bureaucrats brook no advice from experts that know and care, there is money to be made. That was the ethos of the ill fated land saga and now the business indigenisation process too.

The real trouble here is that the majority of Zimbabweans derive no tangible benefit from these fragile places, such as Mana Pools National Park, and, frankly, many may not care about their fate. Protest some may, but the cogs of contemporary politics and influence are not well attuned to what is good for all, but rather to that which is in it for them. That is why 30 tonne rigs are traversing Mana Pools’ delicate ecosystem with building supplies. That is why Timbuktu’s cultural heritage sites have been destroyed. Do the people care? Yes, the rat is dead and smelling bad.

The question is, do Zimbabweans really want to see their natural heritage being pillaged and plundered by the connected elite, the chefs? Do they much really care? If anything these remote havens of the real Africa are not within the reach of the people and herein lays the Achilles Heel of any eco-protest. It all seems a too little, too late. Much needs to be done to convince the ordinary person that his natural heritage is perilously at stake, because when all is done and dusted, river lines have been destroyed, and eco-systems have collapsed, it will be futile to say “I told you so”.

You can help… there is a petition to be signed and you could join a social media group in support of this campaign.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!