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Tourism holds Zimbabwe’s best potential for recovery

The tourism sector whose revenue tumbled from US$140 million in 1999 to US$44 million five years later, held Zimbabwe’s most rapid rebound potential, according to the United States embassy.

The United States which had imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe and was issuing travel warnings to its citizens not to travel to Zimbabwe, acknowledged this after the government threatened to nationalise the Save Valley where an American couple had a stake and the United States itself had a ranch.

It said if the Save Valley area were nationalised, consequences for conservation and future investment were also likely to be negative.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 04HARARE655, Land Reform Threatens Wildlife

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE655

2004-04-20 13:41

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000655

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

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

TAGS: SENV EAID BTIO EINV ECON PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: Land Reform Threatens Wildlife

 

Ref: Harare 579

 

1. (SBU) Summary: After a decade of rescuing endangered

species, Save (pronounced SA-vay) Valley now weighs its

own extinction. Robert Mugabe’s land redistribution has

gradually spilled into this conservancy, Africa’s largest

private wildlife reserve. The conservancy would be an

important component of a viable Transfrontier Park

(linking Zimbabwe with Mozambique and South Africa). In

the hands of small-scale farmers or operators uncommitted

to sustainable hunting, however, this unique Zimbabwean

experiment in eco-management is unlikely to survive. End

summary.

 

Model of Sustainable Conservation Tourism

—————————————–

2. (SBU) Econoff visited Save Valley on April 16, meeting

with Manager Clive Stockil and multiple owners/managers.

The conservancy encompasses 3,420 square kilometers in

southeastern Zimbabwe. Created in 1992, Save Valley has

been resoundingly successful in reintroducing wildlife on

former cattle land. The conservancy now has the largest

population of black rhino in the country and wild dog in

southern Africa – both endangered species. Save Valley

has bred elephants to abundance and supplies them to

reserves in neighboring countries. Fourteen separate

property owners – including an American couple – have

established a constitution and administration for the

conservancy. (There are also German, Italian and South

African owners.)

 

3. (SBU) The GOZ has already redistributed land to small-

scale farmers in southern portion Save Valley, encircling

the U.S.-owned property, Hammond Ranch. An internal GOZ

paper goes further, recommending nationalization for Save

Valley and all other private conservancies (ref). The

GOZ has listed, then delisted, Hammond Ranch for

acquisition on several occasions.   Along Hammond’s

borders but still within Save Valley, we observed few

crops surrounding the huts of the many small-scale (A1)

farmers. Instead, most settlers appear to be poaching

wildlife, including endangered species, while surviving

on donor food.

 

4. (SBU) The economic consequences of a GOZ expropriation

of Save Valley are significant, since the conservancy –

through Malilangwe Reserve and Gonarezhou National Park –

links Zimbabwe with Mozambique and South Africa in the

ambitious but unrealized (on the Zimbabwean side)

Transfrontier Park. Zimbabwe’s tourist sector, whose

revenue has tumbled from US$140 to 44 million since 1999,

probably holds the country’s most rapid rebound

potential. If the Save Valley area were nationalized,

consequences for conservation and future investment are

also likely to be negative.

 

A Top-Down Indigenization Plan

———————————-

5. (SBU) Save Valley Manager Stockil claims to have

negotiated a deal with Special Affairs Minister John

Nkomo for an alternate means of integrating black owners.

The conservancy would incorporate and include black-owned

firm Traditions as a minority partner. The GOZ could

make Traditions a majority partner by ceding to the firm

unproductive land from surrounding areas. The fourteen

Save Valley owners would retain their properties but a

diminished stake of the incorporated conservancy. The

GOZ would agree to remove – and no longer resettle – A1

farmers in Save Valley.

 

6. (SBU) For its part, the GOZ could take credit for a

successful indigenization model that can be applied to

country’s other conservancies. This may someday

facilitate a quicker economic recovery. The GOZ’s

redistribution of farmland has already knocked 75 percent

of the productivity out of a once robust agrarian sector.

More levelheaded GOZ officials – possibly Nkomo – may

have second thoughts about using the same formula for

safari areas.

 

Comment

——-

7. (SBU) When pressed, Save Valley owners admit it’s

tough to bet on this Government taking the rational

course on a highly-charged land matter. They are

negotiating with Traditions because they have no better

option. Nkomo himself pitched Traditions to them as a

potential business partner, causing Save Valley owners to

wonder whether the aging minister has a personal stake.

Such shared ownership is obviously preferable to

pulverization of the conservancy (i.e., redistribution to

small-scale farmers for maize and cattle production – and

poaching). On the other hand, the owners worry that

Traditions Chairman Charles Mugari, a retired army

colonel, wants to boost revenues and grant more hunting

permits. Hunting is Save Valley’s most profitable

activity, but the present owners do not believe it will

be sustainable if permitted more liberally. Owners could

realize unprecedented profits for several years by

allowing unrestrained hunting, but would likely destroy

the conservancy in the process. Still, if the non-

hunting safari tourists ever return to Zimbabwe, the

conservancy could sustainably increase the number of

available beds at lodges from 300 to 1,000. But that, in

all probability, would require ever-elusive progress on

the political and human rights front.

 

Sullivan

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