Zimbabwe wildlife gem taken over by settlers


elephant (credit: Mara 1)

About 500 Zan PF supporters have taken over one of Zimbabwe’s  most precious wildlife gems the Ruware Ranch in the Chiredzi River Conservancy. While the land was set aside for resettlement about 12 years ago it is only in the last week that the settlers have moved in.

The move led by a war veteran named Cde Shorty involved 360 families of mainly government workers being given 6 hectares of land each of settlement. 

While no reasonable person can be against Zimbabweans reclaiming land that was stolen from them during the occupation by colonial forces there are concerns that the  latest resettlement in Ruware Ranch will have devastating impacts on the wildlife found within the area. [pullquote]My ministry is no longer responsible for allocating land in conservancies. The ministry handed over conservancies which include Chiredzi River Conservancy, Gwaai Valley Conserv-ancy, Save Valley Conservancy, Midlands Black Rhino Conser-vancy, Malilangwe Conservancy, Bubi Intensive Conservancy and Bubiana Conservancy and from 2007, resettlement was handled by that ministry.[/pullquote]

Wildlife conservancies and ranches have until recently been left relatively unaffected by the fast track land reforms in Zimbabwe. That change in March last year when government officials stated that wildlife ranches were to become part of the reforms.

Parks and Wildlife Authority Director-General, Vitalis Chadenga, described the new policy as ‘one of the unfinished businesses of the land reform program’.

One of the concerns with the settlement of the Ruware Ranch is that it appears to be headed and supported by the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement. However since 2007 wildlife conservancies and resettlement are supposed to be organised and managed by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management.

In February Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement Secretary Sophia Tsvakwi said before a Zimbabwean parliamentary committee, “My ministry is no longer responsible for allocating land in conservancies. The ministry handed over conservancies which include Chiredzi River Conservancy, Gwaai Valley Conserv-ancy, Save Valley Conservancy, Midlands Black Rhino Conser-vancy, Malilangwe Conservancy, Bubi Intensive Conservancy and Bubiana Conservancy and from 2007, resettlement was handled by that ministry,

The redistribution of wildlife based lands in proving to be difficult and complex. Over 28% of Zimbabwe’s land-cover is allocated to wildlife – either government backed parks and reserves or privately owned ranches and conservancies. 

The wildlife conservancies are owned predominately by white farmers who are supposed to be working in partnership with Zimbabwean blacks but many have refused to voluntarily take part in the land and share redistribution and they are challenging the need to take part in the courts.

This has led to some to call for all wildlife land including the conservancies to be taken over by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management. The ministry would then be able offer the land out on a tender basis for the leases.



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