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CIO chief among ZANU PF officials linked to illegal hunting in Zim

CIO chief among ZANU PF officials linked to illegal hunting in Zim

By Alex Bell
17 October 2012

Zimbabwe’s head of the notorious Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), 
and other key ZANU PF officials, have been linked to years of illegal 
hunting in the country’s conservancies, which is said to have been a key 
source of revenue for the party.

CIO Director Happyton Bonyongwe was named in a confidential diplomatic 
cable, created in 2008 by then US Ambassador James McGee, who warned that 
hunting “has long been a source of ill-gotten revenue for members of the 
ZANU PF elite, and given the ongoing resource grab, it is not surprising 
that new hunting schemes have developed to supply the elites with forex.”

The cable, released by the online whistleblower WikiLeaks, claimed that the 
government was indiscriminately issuing hunting licences in the country’s 
national parks, with a devastating impact on Zimbabwe’s protected wildlife 
species. At the time the illicit parcelling out of hunting licences was 
linked to ZANU PF’s plans to secure as much of a grip on resources as 
possible before it faced the MDC in elections.

A small group of hunters and safari operators were allegedly consistently 
involved in the illegal hunting practices. The diplomatic cable named 
professional hunters like Guy Whitall, Tim Schultz of African Dream Safaris, 
Headman Sibanda and Wayne Grant of Nyala Safaris, Evans Makanza, Alan 
Shearing, Buzz Charlton and James Macullam of Charlton Macullum Safaris, 
A.J. Van Heerden of Shashe Safaris, Barry Van Heerden of Big Game Safaris, 
and Lawrence Boha.

According to the US embassy, numerous conservationists had suggested that 
the Van Heerden brothers were involved in suspicious hunting and land deals 
with the CIO’s Bonyongwe.

McGee warned in the cable that, “this ongoing struggle over greed, 
ill-gotten forex, and natural resource management is just one more result of 
the continued political impasse in Zimbabwe.”

The cable was a warning of things to come and illegal hunting practices have 
since been ‘normalised’ through the ZANU PF led indigenisation campaign. 
National Parks in August this year issued hunting permits to 25 so-called 
indigenous ‘farmers’ who were given land in the wildlife-rich Save Valley 
Conservancy in the Lowveld. National Parks director general Vitalis 
Chadenga, said this was part of the government’s ‘wildlife based land reform’ 
exercise, saying beneficiaries have been allocated 25-year land leases in 
conservancies throughout Masvingo province.

Included in the list of beneficiaries are top ZANU PF officials and 
loyalists, such as Masvingo Governor Titus Maluleke, former Gutu South 
legislator Shuvai Mahofa and the late Higher and Tertiary Education Minister 
Stan Mudenge.

The Masvingo Governor and other key MPs have since last year been 
spearheading a ZANU PF led campaign of ‘indigenisation’ in the province, 
dubbed the ‘Masvingo Initiative’, with the intention of grabbing land. 
Former governor Josiah Hungwe, former MP Enock Porusingazi, army boss 
Engelbert Rugeje, and former MP and war vet Shuvai Mahofa, were last year 
also fingered by whistleblower website WikiLeaks as being part of the 
Masvingo land grab.

The Save Valley Conservancy has called the handover of the new hunting 
licenses a ‘criminal act’ that has nothing to do with genuine indigenisation 
efforts. Johnny Rodrigues, the head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force 
(ZCTF), told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that the licences need to be 

“Actually, we believe that hunting needs to be suspended for three years to 
do a proper audit and to put some controls in place. Otherwise, we are 
heading towards doom,” Rodrigues warned.

He added that a senior government official is believed to have quietly 
stepped in to stop the ongoing takeover of the conservancies, “so we will 
see what will happen in the next few weeks. 


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