The government intended to acquire private nature conservancies, divide the businesses into multiple shares and pass on half the shares to black owners, according to the United States embassy.
The previous owners, who were mostly white, were to gradually pass on another 30 percent to the new owners over five years and thus end up with 20 percent.
The embassy said it was aware of two nature conservancies that were owned by white American citizens which could be affected under the plan.
It said the Save conservancy in Masvingo province was attempting to work out an arrangement with Special Affairs Minister John Nkomo where owners would partner with an indigenous group and avoid nationalization of their assets.
Viewing cable 04HARARE579, GOZ could nationalize conservancies
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 000579
STATE FOR AF/S
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
USDOC FOR AMANDA HILLIGAS
TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW
PASS USTR FLORIZELLE LISER
STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON
¶E. O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: GOZ could nationalize conservancies
¶1. Summary: There is increasing worry the GOZ will
nationalize nature conservancies. Robert Mugabe’s
Government may view redistribution of wildlife assets as
the logical next phase of land reform. If mishandled,
however, such a move could harm the Zimbabwe’s wildlife
and recovery prospects. End summary.
¶2. An internal but widely leaked report calls for the GOZ
to acquire private conservancies, then divide the
businesses into multiple shares. Half the conservancy
shares would go to current owners, the other half to new
black owners – both would lease wildlife lands back from
the GOZ. During the following five years, former owners
would gradually pass another 30 percent to new owners and
end up with a 20-percent stake. Since some conservancies
are already black-owned, it is unclear whether the GOZ
would also subject black-owned conservancies to this
process. In its redistribution of farms, the GOZ has
generally left black-owned commercial farms untouched.
(Note: We are aware of two nature conservancies with
white American citizen-property owners that the plan
would affect.) The SAVE conservancy in Masvingo province
has been attempting to work out an arrangement with
Special Affairs Minister John Nkomo where owners would
partner with an indigenous group and avoid
nationalization of their assets.
¶3. For Zimbabwe, this is big business. Wildlife areas
comprise twenty percent of the country’s farmland and
five percent of its total area. Ecotourism and hunting
could easily generate several hundred millions U.S.
dollars annually after political transition. Chaotic
fast-track land reform has already carried serious
environmental and economic consequences. While increased
indigenous ownership in the wildlife industry makes sense
in a country whose population is over 99 percent black,
we fear a hasty and haphazard approach could harm
wildlife and recovery potential. It is unlikely existing
owners would participate in a plan that makes them twenty
percent minority shareholders in the new businesses.
Many have already invested substantial resources to
restock and protect wildlife. Conservancies could
rapidly become underfunded, subjecting wildlife to
dangers such as poaching, fires, over-hunting, foot-and-
mouth viruses, insufficient water access and poor fence