Africa

Zimbabwe parks the bus on transfrontier deal

Regerai Pepukai

Land invaders are keeping the state from going ahead with a potentially lucrative transfrontier deal with South Africa and Mozambique.

Zimbabwe is not honouring its end of the bargain in the agreement to create a transfrontier park that includes its Gonarezhou Park. (Richard Droker/Gallo images)

Zimbabwe risks exclusion from the envisaged Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park because for years the country has failed to comply with all the requirements to be part of the potentially lucrative project of three Southern African countries.

The three Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park member states are South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The plan, proposed by the three governments, joins three national parks – South Africa's Kruger National Park, Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou and Mozambique's Limpopo national parks – to create a 350 000 km2 transfrontier park.

The proceeds from the park would be shared among the three countries, depending on the number of arrivals from each.

The park would be administered by all three countries. Among other conditions Zimbabwe was supposed to meet include the removal of land ­invaders in the Gonarezhou National Park, upgrade the Buffalo Range Airport to meet international standards and electrify lodges in Gonarezhou.

Zimbabwe had until December last year to comply with these requirements.

Government's failures
Prospects for Zimbabwe's continued inclusion in the three-country tourism promotion project have been dampened; it emerged that government would not move the invaders after failing to secure funds to relocate them from the 5 000 km2 Gonarezhou park.

In addition, the government has failed to resume work at Buffalo Range Airport, which was stopped a decade ago owing to underfunding.

Masvingo provincial administrator, Felix Chikovo, said that the proposed eviction of the invaders had indefinitely been shelved because of financial constraints.

"We are no longer going to evict the invaders in the Gonarezhou because the government has no money to relocate them. In addition, we have failed to identify alternative land on which to resettle the affected families."

The Chitsa clan invaded the sanctuary in 2000 at the height of the farm invasions. They have refused to vacate, arguing that the land in the Gonarezhou Park belonged to their ancestors; they are entitled to it. The settlers this week vowed to fight anyone to protect their land.

"Our ancestors used to live in this area and we have some of them who were buried there," said Sam Munyaka, one of the invaders.

People invade farms
"We have several cases of people who invaded farms but the government has singled us out for eviction. We resist such plans."

Despite the setbacks, Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi said the country was committed to being part of the grouping.

He cited progress made in ­upgrading roads in the park as well as building and electrifying lodges in the sanctuary.

"The invaders have to be removed if the proposed Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is to succeed," said Mzembi.

The defiant villagers had to be made aware of the importance of the project so that they made way for the initiative, he said.

"The country is really committed to be part of the grouping and necessary measures are being put in place to make sure that the project is a success."

Great Limpopo Trans-frontier Park MOA
Zimbabwe could have benefitted more had it upgraded the Buffalo Range Airport, which was chosen because of its proximity to Mozambique and South Africa.

In 2000 the three countries signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the Great Limpopo Trans-frontier Park as a way of attracting international tourists.

Initially the park was named Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Transfrontier Park before being renamed the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park the following year.

Fences between the parks were taken down, a move that has also been blamed for increasing rhino poaching as it made the movement of poachers easy.

It will be home to more than 500 bird species, 147 mammal species, 116 reptile species, 34 frog species and 49 fish species, if implemented with the inclusion of Zimbabwe. – CAJ News

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