REPORTS that the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) is busy signing deals behind the scenes with foreign-based stakeholders without the knowledge of key local players in the tourism industry are a serious cause for concern.

NewsDay Comment

ZimParks is the custodian of the country’s most critical resources, chiefly wildlife and the forests, plains and mountains they inhabit; and it is quite curious that the State department has the unfettered liberty to sign contracts involving the country’s national heritage behind closed doors.

While local tourism players are worried about the letter and spirit of the treaties and their implications to the survival and continued existence of mainly the hunting safari sector, many are wondering whether these arrangements are even being presented to Parliament for oversight.

Why is the nation not being fully informed about these arrangements which have a profound bearing on the State? Even more worrying are reports that government is bypassing Parliament and also fast-tracking other deals with foreigners without any due diligence.

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The latest such move is government’s decision to fast-track unclear business arrangements with investors from the United Arab Emirates.

ZimParks director-general Fulton Upenyu Mangwanya seems geared to place the country’s wildlife in the hands of the greens – the animal-friendly organisations who have over the years tried and failed to get Zimbabwe to stop consumptive tourism or sport hunting. ZimParks as the regulator should know the impact of its unholy relationship with these so-called animal-friendly organisations. We have no doubt that in no time, with ZimParks advice, government will stop sport hunting industry in favour of filthy donations by the greens.

Yet Zimbabwe is endowed with a burgeoning population of elephants and other wildlife species. How can locals fail to sustainably utilise their animal resource? President Emmerson Mnangagwa during the Africa Wildlife Summit in Victoria Falls recently called for a mix of non-consumptive and consumptive tourism to allow communities to benefit. We believe that ZimParks has been infiltrated by money-mongers who have no idea what the mandate of the organisation is all about. We call for immediate action to investigate ZimParks top brass, otherwise Zimbabwe will soon burn its millions of dollars worth of ivory stockpiles, yet this money could be used for development.

We call on new Environment minister Mangaliso Ndlovu to meet all stakeholders and hear what they have to say immediately. The ZimParks directorate must not be spared if found wanting!

While it is understandable that Mnangagwa’s regime is desperate for Foreign Direct Investment to help meet its election promises, it would have been judicious for it to stitch these arrangements within the confines of the law and necessary oversight.

Hurriedly signing deals for political expediency will not augur well for a government that preaches good governance and does the opposite. It is things such as these that may seem small which, in the long run, can make or break the reputation of any government.

A government which is averse to abiding by its own rules cannot nurture trust in its subjects.

These secret arrangements outside the scrutiny of citizens through Parliament, are a serious indictment to any effort to rebuild the southern African nation’s battered economy.

These dodgy deals give credence to conspiracy theories doing the rounds that the country is being mortgaged and by the time Zimbabweans wake up there will be no country to talk about. What will be left are curved out pieces of territory owned by powerful cartels, organisations and individuals.

It is, however, hoped that Mnangagwa is astute enough not to mortgage a country which was birthed through extreme sacrifice that involved the spilling of blood. Zimbabwe can still achieve its goal of becoming a middle-income economy by 2030 without cutting corners.

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