THE ECOLOGICAL disaster that has killed over a 100 jumbos at the Hwange National Park has endangered more inhabitants of that land as the rainy season is approaching and shocked the country and the world.
– Cont Mhlanga
Chemical warfare of any kind, be it against humans, animals, nature and the environment is unacceptable for whatever reason.
This is why the country should applaud Water, Climate and Environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere when he declares total war on poaching syndicates and those that collaborate with them.
Villagers should be encouraged to stay away from such dangerous networks of people and report them to authorities without delay.
However, the minister should be aware that this curse has been brought to the elephants and other animals by how the government has allowed agendas and policies that promote total exclusion of locals to directly benefit from the country’s animal and natural resources.
The National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s policies, priorities and systems are the worst in this regard.
Locals are denied total access to their own wildlife for a simple reason that villagers who share boundaries with animals at these parks are financially poorer than those none Zimbabweans who come from other countries to pay thousands of dollars to exploit what locals are not allowed to touch.
What is the purpose of out- pricing your own nationals with a resource that is rightfully theirs?
Why should the game trophy hunting by our local young Zimbabweans be not the most prestigious sport in the country whose trophies should be mounted in public buildings and schools of our land?
The frustrating thing is that thousands of dollars paid by foreign hunters never find their way back to the villages to direct benefit to the people.
All the money is spent on behalf of the poor villagers by those rich few who run parks and the government.
Minister, let me narrate this sad event in case you missed it in your busy schedule.
A villager is in prison as I write because he killed a lion that left the park and came to the village to terrorise people and killed two of his donkeys.
The lion had been terrorising villagers for almost two weeks with reports being sent to the police and parks officials and they never provided the service that the villagers were calling for.
After the lion had killed the villager’s donkeys, the man decided to go out and kill the lion before it killed his wife or children on their way to school.
He killed the lion that should have been hunting for kudus in the game park and not his donkeys and then went to tell the police.
This time the police and park officials were at the village scene in record time and arrested the man for killing the stupid lion.
The magistrate using the country’s democratic laws that protected the lion and did not protect the donkeys and the villager sentenced the man to prison.
He has left behind a wife with children that she now can’t feed as the family’s only source of food and money comes from their crop fields that they cannot till because she has no donkeys any more come this rainy season.
The family has not been compensated by wildlife management authorities because to them, what are donkeys to the value of a lion!
After all, people with real money come into the country to hunt for lions and not some donkeys from poor villages.
No Cabinet ministers’ task team was created to look into the challenges of wild animals coming to villages to destroy their crops and animals.
No companies donated transport to rangers to assist them to respond timely to villagers’ calls for service.
No national parks managers have been fired or thrown into prison for failing to keep animals within the parks.
In this country monkeys and hyenas are more important than the local people. This cannot go on honourable minister.
Let’s focus on value addition of our natural heritage across the board and get our minds cleaned of this colonised and contaminated mentality to think that value addition can only be done elsewhere in the world except here in Zimbabwe.
Your ministry should create open natural resources warehouses where local people at district or provincial level who want to buy these for various reasons like production of festival costumes, designer clothing labels, jewellery, furniture, travel bags, utility crafts including medicinal herbs, can do so at affordable prices.
We all know that the backbone of our people’s cultural and traditional religious and herbal practice is the local wild animals, trees, grass and stones.
Wild animal skins for cultural clothing are in demand yet even our schoolchildren have to use plastic packaging to exhibit their cultural heritage because of lack of access to wildlife raw materials.
Local people have to resort to some kind of poaching to access such materials.
Whenever they are sold, only to foreigners, it’s secretive as if as a country we are stealing them from someplace elsewhere in this planet.
The worst thing is that those we worship as having money and technology from other countries in fact, are going to value addition the same materials by producing what our own creative young people can produce.
The results of this is the rise of poaching syndicates who have become so daring to the extent of using chemicals.
It is these same syndicate operatives who killed the so called Campfire programme through corruption.
Since independence thousands of animals have been sold to those we worship as having money in the name of benefiting the country, yet if you visit the districts that share boundaries with animal wealth of this country you will not find a single state-of-the-art value addition factory.
People should be travelling to this country from all over the world to come shop for the cheapest ivory, gold and diamond products created by our own talent and that too will still add up to tourism and export revenues.
As soon as the Hwange ecological disaster is under control and becomes history, Kasukuwere should revisit the National Parks and Wild Life Management Authority agenda, principles and policies and indigenise them for the benefit of the majority of our ordinary citizens.
As things stand the authority remains the government department that is most out of sync with the indigenisation policy of this country.
If some adventurous student or family in Europe woke up shouting, “Let’s save lizards!” the whole of the national parks will be running and screaming “Let’s save lizards!” When locals scream that the lizards are eating their chickens the government and its parks officials would respond by throwing the locals in prison! What a shame.
While the government strives to provide full access to natural wealth by communities as part of eliminating the poaching menace, the parks should strive to provide swift services to locals as a situation where monkeys and hyenas are more important than the people is undesirable and unacceptable.