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Diplomatic embarrassment of Harare at wildlife summit



FOUR proposals made by Zimbabwe at the 19th Conference on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife, Flora and Fauna (Cites) were rejected by member states, dashing Harare’s hopes of getting permission to sell its stockpile of ivory running into millions of dollars.


The conference was held in Panama City from 14 to 25 November 2022, but details of what transpired had been hazy until Tuesday this week when Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa lifted the lid during a post-cabinet briefing.

 Zimbabwe went into the conference expecting to push for measures that would result in international support for permission to sell its stockpile of ivory amounting to over US$600 million after the country was banned in 1989 from trading by Cites, the global body that monitors endangered species.

The Cites ban was meant to stop the wanton slaughter of endangered species like elephants and rhinos mostly by criminal syndicates with government connections. The ban, according to Cites, was supposed to result in an increase in the population of the endangered species, especially the African elephant.

In May this year, officials from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority showed ambassadors from European Union countries the stockpile of ivory tusks that they claimed had been seized from poachers and collected from elephants that died.

The Zimbabwean officials appealed to the EU and other countries to support the campaign at the Cites conference for the sale of the ivory.

 At that time, the Zimbabwean authorities claimed the country had 130 tonnes of ivory and 6 to 7 tonnes of rhino horns, but it was largely believed that the figures were in fact understated. Envoys from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Britain, Switzerland, Canada and the United States viewed the ivory tusks in heavily guarded vaults in Harare.

 However, Mutsvangwa, while briefing journalists on a report presented to cabinet by Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu, said all proposals made by Zimbabwe at the Cites conference were rejected.

 “Cabinet wishes to highlight that Zimbabwe made four proposals at the Cites conference. These were as follows: 1. Zimbabwe proposed an amendment to the voting procedure to assign several votes per representative proportionate to the population size of the species under discussion or whose status is subject to voting. Some countries supported the proposal which was however rejected following a vote.”

“The country proposed to remove the requirement that Zimbabwe’s elephants listed on Appendix II can only be traded to ‘acceptable’ destinations. The proposal had 15 members in favour, 83 against and 17 abstained.”

“The proposal on establishing a Rural Communities Committee received no consensus from members and an inter-sessional working group was set up to consider the issue and make recommendations to Cites. Zimbabwe, in conjunction with Botswana, Namibia, Cambodia and Eswatini submitted a proposal to include consideration of livelihoods and food security, which was also rejected,” said Mutsvangwa.

The Information minister revealed that cabinet had since resolved to engage other African countries to lobby Cites to allow Harare to sell its ivory stockpile. She added that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration blamed civil society organisations for the continued ban.

 “Given the divisions that continue to widen among African regions at Cites, Cabinet agreed that the matter be taken up through engagements with fellow African nations and, where possible discussed at the AU Council of Ministers Meeting so that Africa comes up with a common position devoid of the influence of the former colonial masters and civil society organisations,” she said.

 Sources told The NewsHawks that the needless destruction of prime wildlife habitat for endangered species by top government officials and their cronies has largely haunted Zimbabwe in its bid to lobby Cites.

There is currently chaos in the Sebakwe Basin near Kwekwe where prominent citizens with state collusion have invaded the Midlands Black Rhino Conservancy (MBRC) and the nearby Sebhakwe Recreational Park.

MBRC has eight black rhinos, with an unknown number of animals also coming in to browse from adjoining game parks in the vicinity.

Twin Springs Farm, which forms part of the MBRC, is now occupied by President Mnangagwa’s brother Patrick and businessman Douglas Kwande whose wheat farming activities are threatening the existence of wildlife species including sable, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe.

The black rhinos are also now in danger. In previous interviews, the two defended their invasion and said it is for the good of the nation as they will be able to boost wheat production and avert national hunger.

 On the other hand, more eminent people have invaded Chinyika range which forms part of the MBRC and they include Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa, David Douglas Hamadziripi, and permanent representative to the United Nations Chitsaka Chipaziwa, among others.

Elephant, kudu, eland, impala, bushbuck, waterbuck, buffalo, hippopotamus, wild dog, leopard, cheetah, brown and spotted hyena are found in the MBRC as a whole, but the wildlife is at great risk due to the invasion of the conservancy which has reduced habitat land and increased cases of poaching.

Millions of dollars invested in the wildlife conservation in the past 35 years at the sanctuary is likely to be lost as a direct result of the actions of the bigwigs Save Foundation of Australia and Sebhakwe Black Rhino Trust also made significant donations to the conservancy to build it into what it is, but the illegal settlements could see the investments going down the drain.

 The Parks and Wildlife Act (Chapter 20:14) prohibits human settlements or agricultural activities on conservancies, unless with the express authorisation of an Act of Parliament.

At present, no such law has been promulgated to legalise the settlements, not even a fleeting statutory instrument.

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