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Diplomats: Aid cut proposed as Zimbabwe seizes famed reserve

Diplomats: Aid cut proposed as Zimbabwe seizes famed reserve

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online

Harare (dpa) – The seizure by the government of a massive, prized wildlife 
reserve in Zimbabwe could spark a targeted withdrawal of Western aid, two 
European diplomats told dpa on Sunday.

The privately owned Save Valley Conservancy group says only people who are 
part of President Robert Mugabe‘s inner circle stand to benefit from the 
land grab, while the reserve and the animals, including endangered species, 
would suffer.

Lions, leopards, elephants, cheetahs and the often-poached rhino all live on 
the land. As part of the seizure, hunting licenses are being granted to 
politicians, in a move that has conservationists worried.

The plan is regarded as one of the largest seizures since 2000, when the 
Zimbabwe government began to kick white farmers off their land and transfer 
ownership to blacks.

The land reform programme was meant to rectify colonial-era imbalances which 
heavily favoured the white minority. However, critics say it has largely 
benefited politically connected elites from Mugabe‘s Zanu-PF party.

“We are all very concerned,” said one diplomat, speaking on condition of 
anonymity. “We are considering appropriate reactions. It‘s a very serious 

One measure could be the withdrawal of support for a United Nations‘ World 
Tourism Organization congress next year, being hosted jointly by Zimbabwe 
and Zambia at Victoria Falls, a tourist site on the shared border.

“Zimbabwe depends entirely on international support for the congress,” said 
a European diplomat. “It cannot go ahead without us.”

The idea would be discussed in Berlin this week, during a meeting of German 
officials, the diplomats said.

Zimbabwe‘s state wildlife authority announced August 9 it was granting 25 
top officials from Zanu-PF control over most of the Save (pronounced Sa-Veh) 
reserve, which covers 2,600 square kilometres in the country‘s arid 

Running along the banks of the Save river, the conservancy – respected as a 
leader in wildlife management and research – is collectively controlled by 
international investors, white ranchers who formerly ran cattle on the land, 
local black businessmen and hundreds of peasant farmers.

“It is a working example of how something really special can be a success, 
by including all sectors of the community, especially the rural poor who 
have previously got nothing out of wildlife,” said Wilfried Pabst, a German 
businessman who is vice-chairman of the conservancy.

Pabst rejected accusations by the government that the reserve is opposed to 
ensuring a fair deal for blacks.

“Two-thirds of stakeholders of the conservancy are blacks. It is now being 
threatened by a collection of greedy individuals who are bringing nothing 
into the conservancy and will destroy it,” Pabst said.

The Save Valley Conservancy noted in a statement that the government had 
supported the reserve consistently since the reserve was founded in 1991.

Conservations warn that two other Zimbabwean reserves that were the subjects 
of takeovers have since collapsed. Some 600 workers at Save stand to lose 
their jobs at Save should it suffer a similar fate, they say.

The Save group also warned that, already, anti-poaching staff were being 
removed from their posts and hunting of antelopes was on the rise for sale 
on local meat markets, in a move apparently spearheaded by a Zanu-PF 

Diplomats say they are in talks with Zimbabwe‘s government in an effort to 
reach a conservation deal. dpa jr shg ncs Authors: Jan Raath, Shabtai Gold


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