Political Game Conservation Woes

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIZimbabwe’s south eastern Lowveld features a number of intensive natural conservation areas and the Gonarezhou National Park, a wildness region destined to form part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The domain of the Transfrontier Park is expected to see its international boundaries (between Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe) rubbed off the map in a way, allowing free migration of its wildlife and encouraging an influx of tourism. It is an area blessed with abundant beauty and some unique flora and fauna.

While fences along these political boundaries may fall, other political boundaries are being overstepped and perverted by a provincial ‘ruling elite’. The south east has become a war zone, yet again, with hapless wildlife being the victims of the onslaught and enduring politics of jealousy. Are we experiencing the last desperate struggle of a party which has lost its way?

For several months now, self-styled, lackey war veterans, most of whom have never fired a weapon in anger, and grass root, crooked politicians have been gnawing away at the Save Valley and Chiredzi River Conservancies; and nearby national parks, principally Gonarezhou. They are making claims for the landless, knocking down game fences, bush clearing, burning and looting the nation’s natural posterity. Along the trail of this destruction have come the poachers and wood looters, under the umbrella of political confusion, demolishing both beast and woodland in an orgy of greed and destruction.

Giraffe Snared Chiredzi River Conservancy – Author Anonymous

Trade in precious hardwoods for fuel is brisk. Glorious elephant are slain for their ivory tusks, magnificent rhino slaughtered for horn, and several fine feline species destroyed for their skins. Delicate vegetation is being burnt out and replaced with huts, tillage and domestic livestock, in areas which will not support sustained cropping without irrigation. Zimbabweans are devastating their own assets in a narrow minded frenzy of rapacity, but politics is very much at its base. It is African anarchy at its worst.

Zimbabwe has long suffered an era of lawlessness in the name of felonious change aimed mostly at commercial (or white) agriculture. The land grab of the last decade was carried out with impunity by these same dullard, if not misguided, war veterans who now pillage the conservancies and national parks. The land grab reduced foreign agricultural revenues and turned the nation into a net importer of food.

No one is learning the lessons here and most are actually denying they exist. Dim politicians, with no long term perspective, are turning their xenophobic attention to foreign (rather white owned) business, but their victims are no longer just white folk. The nation’s unparalleled wildlife heritage is being pillaged in the process too. It is very much a case of ‘cutting off the nose to spite the face’ (or perhaps better put, ‘line the pocket’).

Elephant shot Chiredzi River Conservancy – Author Anonymous

Die hard conservationists have been distraught at the damage being caused, not because they own the land, or have a stake in the business conducted thereon, but because the very core of conservation is under attack by reckless politicians who, clearly, lack morale fibre. Land claims may arguably manifest a cause, but Zimbabwe has been through that disastrous process already.

Much of the land acquired (some suggest stolen) now lays fallow in once richly yielding intensive farming areas, so why the initiative against national parks and conservancies in lesser viable areas? The answer may not lie with land hunger, but rather with more sinister political objectives of individuals garnering for political influence and, of course, greater wealth. Zimbabweans well know this. It is a protraction of the ethos of reaping where one has not sewn which has saturated certain elements of society.

While the destruction of wildlife is a great tragedy for the nation, there is perhaps a greater catastrophe unfolding, apathy. Zimbabweans just do not seem to care or wish to react. As much as conservationists holler about the despicable fate of Zimbabwe’s marvellous national parks and conservancies, it is only the conservationists who seem to be hearing this. They have been crying out about the south eastern crisis for several months now, and everyone who may have a remote interest or some influence in political or executive circles is turning their head the other way.

Government ministers merely indicate they have not authorised land grabs in the conservancies, yet do not react. Directors of National Parks seem hamstrung and unable to enter the fray, the police re-act slowly and ineffectively, and non-governmental organisations are powerless, while all these little empires emerge in the name of what is really an injudicious revolution. Worse still, fully appraised opposition politicians seem ludicrously meek in the face of it all.

Zimbabwe’s national heritage is at stake here. Few Zimbabweans would remain modest in the face of say the Great Zimbabwe monument being pillaged for its wonderful stone, so what is the difference? Has ‘the party’ lost control of its minions to the extent that Zimbabwe’s wildlife heritage should suffer in an unscrupulous wave of gluttony and devastation, seeing the demise of ethical conservation… is this what Zimbabweans want?

This is all absurdly myopic. It is a gloomy failure by Zimbabweans to protect their wildlife. It is surely time to deploy a real police force or army urgently alongside National Parks to redefine the boundaries and protect what is left. The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is seriously at stake. Mozambicans and South Africans will hardly wish to see their wildlife being ushered across baron land to the slaughter on the altar of petty power hungry politics. It is all quite shameful.

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

Yet Another Crass Red Herring

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIIn Zimbabwe, it seems the latest vogue, out of active political circles, is to muster up nationalist fervour against targeted sanctions. These were levied against a few of the political chefs by Western nations opposed to the Mugabe regime. Suddenly, sanctions are now considered illegal, and perceived as being imposed upon the entire state, embodying the cause, allegedly, of much hardship and deprivation to the nation as a whole, and its people too. Really?

It seems that the sponsors of this latest campaign against sanctions are not exactly chewing stale sadza, without relish, over smelly mugs of cloudy City water. They are wining and dining with the finest imported foods and beverages at the best hotels and at their palatial mansions. They are chauffeur driven in the latest and greatest imported German cars, and wear the latest hunky-dory imported designer clothing and ‘shades’. Many are sporting the tell tale signs of grotesque wealth, so much for the hardship.

On Wednesday selected businesses were phoned by anonymous callers threatening dire consequences to those who did not close shop during the President’s inaugural rally against sanctions. Thousands of SMS messages were sent to people on the, perhaps partisan, Net One cellular network appealing for support, ominously signed ZANU PF. Strangely, recipients were urged to call a London based telephone number, clearly out of the reach of sanctions!

Frankly, one has to question a few issues here. Firstly, it is common knowledge that sanctions just do not serve their purpose. They certainly have not affected the chefs. Sure, the wives and families of certain chefs cannot shop at Harrods in London; or Aspreys or Bloomingdales of New York, but shop they will, in the fashionable salons of Singapore, Malaysia or Hong Kong. If anything, the only deprivation suffered here is the loss of political dignity.

Remember ‘good old Rhodesia’ in the face of a no lesser, United Nations, legitimate sanctions embargo? Those who do will remember a mighty little economy, which grew stronger with self sufficiency in the face of a truly worldwide sanctions onslaught. Those sanctions did not work. Nor do the current targeted sanctions. They are a marvelous demonstration of how to raise a finger to the world, a good lesson for today’s pathetic crop of manipulative politicians!

Secondly, why on earth would a coterie of apparently filthy rich politicians, who are the isolated victims of such sanctions, be so desperate to be rid of them? More pertinently, do they really want to do business or fraternize with their protractors, the people they so obviously hate and are not shy to tell us so? Why are they so keen to obviate personal embargo and perhaps lodge or squander their ill gotten gains with their Western foes, or have the ‘enemy’ educate their offspring or treat their ailments? There is always the East, you know. Surely nobody would wish to deal with those they despise so much, so it is odd that the victims are now making so much noise. The entire charade is an insult to intelligent Zimbabweans.

Clearly, the real agenda is a touch fogged by this crass red herring and a despite a few gullible businessmen and bankers to boot; most have seen though it. It is shocking though, when apparently naive leaders of organizations representative of industry and commerce are roped into the party spin, thus lending credibility to the rot. They do not seem to realize the real agenda here. It is just another inglorious extension of the mindless revolution against mythical foes! It is another ploy to impose a vicious racist ideology against an innocent, industrious minority, to garner much needed support for the party.

Hopefully Zimbabweans will, this time, see through this vulgar dishonesty. They never did the first time around, during the ill fated, racist folly, land grab from white people, which almost destroyed Zimbabwe’s economy, alongside other ruinous policies. Now it is the turn of the companies. The reality is that so few companies are now under the control of white or foreign nationals, aside a few notable multinational. Soon it will be white homes too. Sadly, we don’t see opposition politics stepping up to the plate on this score either.

Chef: colloquialism for politicians in the former ‘ruling’ party clique
Sadza: staple maize meal diet of many Zimbabweans