HARARE – The ecological disaster that has killed over a hundred jumbos at the Hwange National Park and has endangered more inhabitants of that land as the rain season is approaching has shocked the nation and the world.
Chemical warfare of any kind, be it against humans, animals, nature and the environment is unacceptable for whatever reason.
This is why the nation should applaud Environment minister Savior Kasukuwere when he declares total war on poaching syndicates and those that collaborate with such.
Villagers should be encouraged to stay away from such dangerous networks of people and report them to the authorities without delay.
However, the minister should be made 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.
National Parks and Wild Life Management policies, priorities, systems are the worst in this regard.
The locals are denied total access to their own wildlife for a simple reason that the villagers who share boundaries with these animals at the parks are financially poor than those non 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 prizing your own nationals with a resource that is rightfully theirs?
Why should game trophy hunting by our local young Zimbabweans be not the most prestigious sport in the country, whose trophies are mounted in public buildings and schools of our land?
The frustrating high note of all this is that the thousands of dollars paid by foreign hunters never find their way back to the villages to show some direct benefit to the people.
All the money is spent on behalf of the poor villagers by those rich few who run the parks and 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 his two 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 killed the villager’s donkeys the man decided to go out and kill the stray lion before it kills his wife or kids on their way to school.
He killed the stray lion that should be 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 lion.
The magistrate using the country’s democratic laws that protected the stray lion and did not protect the donkeys and the villager sentenced the villager to prison.
He has left behind a wife with children that she now cannot feed as the family’s only source of food and money comes from their crop fields that they now cannot till because she has no donkeys any more come this rain season.
The family has not been compensated by the Wild Life Management authority because to them what are donkeys to the value of a lion?
After all white people with real money come into the country to hunt for lions and not some donkeys from the poor villages.
No Cabinet minister task team was created to look into the challenges of wild animals coming to the 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.
All this because in this country monkeys and hyenas are more important that the local people.
This cannot go on honourable minister.
Let’s focus on value addition of our natural heritage across board and get our minds cleaned of this colonised and contaminated minds that think that value addition can only be done somewhere out there 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, e.g. production of festival costumes, designer clothing labels, jewellery, furniture, travel bags, utility crafts including medicinal herbs can do so at affordable prizes.
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 school children have to use plastic packaging to exhibit their cultural heritage because of lack of access to these wild life raw materials.
Local people have to resort to some kind of poaching to access such materials. Why?
Whenever they are sold, only to foreigners, it’s secretive as if as a nation we are stealing them from some place in this planet.
The worst thing is that those we worship as having money and technology in 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 secrecy 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 Camp Fire programme trough corruption.
It was a good programme though I have never come to understand why in Zimbabwe with so much rich and beautiful local languages we name a village based community programme Camp Fire???
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 the 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 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, minister Kasukuwere should revisit the National Parks and Wild Life Management agenda, principles and policies and indigenise them for the benefit of the majority of our ordinary citizens.
As things stand, the authority remains the most government department that is 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 will respond by throwing the locals in prison. What a shame.
While government strives to provide full access of natural wealth to 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.