Thursday, November 22, 2012

Zim politician embroiled in Save Valley Conservancy poaching scam

One of the ZANU PF 'beneficiaries' of conservancy land leases and hunting licences is reportedly being investigated for poaching, as the future of the Save Valley Conservancy remains unclear. Former ZANU PF Minister and 'war vet' Shuvai Mahofa, referred to as the Masvingo 'Iron Lady', is reportedly being investigated after a butchery she allegedly runs in Gutu was raided by police. According to a NewsDay article, three buffalo carcasses and other game meat was discovered. Mahofa was one of a group of mainly ZANU PF linked individuals who were granted a hunting licence by National Parks in August. She and the group of so-called 'indigenous farmers' were given the licences and 25 year land leases as part of the ZANU PF led indigenisation campaign. Those who were handed leases at Save Valley include war vets leader Joseph Chinotimba, Major General Gibson Mashingaidze, Major General Engelbert Rugeje, Masvingo Governor and Resident Minister Titus Maluleke, ZANU PF Masvingo provincial chairperson Lovemore Matuke, the late Higher Education Minister Stan Mudenge, Health Deputy Minister Douglas Mombeshora; ZANU PF central committee member Enock Porusingazi and ZANU PF MPs Alois Baloyi, Abraham Sithole, Samson Mukanduri and Noel Mandebvu. The group last year formed the 'Masvingo Initiative' which led a campaign of intimidation and harassment against various land owners in the province. During this campaign Mahofa seized the Savuli Ranch and this year evicted the owners and their employees. Mahofa has since given permission to some safari operators to hunt on Savuli Ranch, granting them hunting quotas according to her newly issued licence. Mahofa's brother is understood to be a known bush meat trader and sources have told SW Radio Africa that their butchery business in Gutu has been thriving ever since Mahofa was given her hunting licence. Some observers have suggested that targeting Mahofa is a result of ZANU PF infighting she has now become tangled in. The saga around the Save Valley has already pitted some members of ZANU PF against each other, with the Walter Mzembi led Tourism Ministry facing off against Environment Minister Francis Nhema. Mzembi has suggested that the licences should be withdrawn until a full investigation is done. It's understood his position is one of damage limitation ahead of the scheduled UN World Tourism Organisation conference set for Victoria Falls next year. The situation at Save Valley Conservancy has added to widespread criticism of Zimbabwe acting as the host of the international meeting. Nhema meanwhile has previously backed the handing over of the licences as a progressive move for indigenisation. He has slammed Mzembi in interviews for trying to change the situation. Both Ministers were meanwhile part of a committee set up by the ZANU PF politburo to try and calm tensions around the situation at the conservancy. The committee was asked to look into the possibility of turning the conservancy into a national park, which would effectively see the leases being withdrawn. But, since its appointment, the committee has failed to meet. Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told SW Radio Africa that withdrawal the leases and putting a moratorium on hunting was the best way to tackle the ongoing problem of poaching and illegal hunting. He said a proper audit needs to be completed to ensure hunting is controlled. He meanwhile said that plans to turn the Conservancy into a national park are part of efforts by the authorities to "hoodwink" people, into believing that the situation is under control. "They are trying to show the world that they are in control, particularly with the UN meeting happening next year. But the reality is if the situation is not brought under control, then we won't have any wildlife left," Rodrigues warned. Source: Online

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