Sanctions, untold story behind the Hwange ecological disaster


Environment, Water and Climate Minister Cde Saviour Kasukuwere

Isdore Guvamombe recently in HWANGE—-
THE ecological disaster in Hwange National Park, where over 81 elephants and an indeterminate number of other animals succumbed to poacher-induced cyanide poisoning, has been attributed to the West’s illegal economic sanctions that affected Zimbabwe’s once-vibrant wildlife management system.

Hwange National Park — Africa’s third largest wildlife sanctuary after Kenya’s Serengeti and South Africa’s Kruger national parks — covers roughly 14 650 square kilometres, roughly the size of Switzerland, and naturally demands vast resources to effectively police and manage.

Prior to the imposition of the West’s illegal economic sanctions, the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority had a proud history of effective management, underpinned by an elaborate National Conservation Strategy, introduced by Government in the mid-1980s.

Week-long investigations at the vast national park, revealed that failure by parks rangers to thwart increasing poaching was a manifestation of the fiscal constraints that left the authority, severely incapacitated.

The latest survey conducted by Parks in conjunction with the World Bank, found that the authority needed at least US$40 million to get back on track.

It is still a mystery how, on the back of increased elephant populations of 120 000 against the country’s holding capacity of 56 000 and the sanctions- induced dwindling of human and material resources, the authority has still managed to operate with a paltry 50 rangers against a requirement of 500.

The world standard space for each elephant is one beast per square kilometre, yet in Hwange National Park alone there are 45 000 elephants against a holding capacity of 14 600.

That in itself, entails that the authority actually needed more resources instead of sanctions.
Parks has effectively been operating at 54 percent of its operational vehicle requirement and out of that, most of the vehicles are half-runners, making them not only difficult, but dangerous to use.

Most rangers, the equivalent of foot soldiers, have gone without their bush allowances backdated to two years to three years ago.
In some cases, the rangers have been forced to go on 21-day patrols without the requisite food rations and protective clothing such as patrol boots, sleeping bags and safe drinking water.

Some have gone without uniforms, and carried home blankets and canvas shoes.
Parks used to conduct aerial patrols, but sanctions brought that operation to a halt, resulting in the authority leasing out one of its helicopters to Shearwater Helicopters in Victoria Falls, to at least get some cash out of it, instead of grounding the chopper.
To resuscitate aerial operations, parks would require 20 000 litres of JetA1.

They also require 130, four wheel drive vehicles.
Environment, Water and Climate Minister Cde Saviour  Kasukuwere said his ministry was looking for more resources, saying it would also embark on massive wildlife conservation awareness campaigns in communities bordering national parks.

“For us we are obviously going to raise more resources to enable parks to work. That is the first thing. We are also going to raise more awareness in communities and we are going to engage the Judiciary so that we make it very difficult for the poachers through stringent and deterrent jail sentences.’’

Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi, insists his ministry had introduced two statutory instruments to allow companies in the industry to acquire equipment and vehicles without paying duty, to cushion them from the effects of the illegal sanctions. National Parks, therefore, could use the same to recapitalise.

“Our tourism is based on wildlife and tourists want to come and see our wildlife and not our hotels. If the biodiversity disappears, then we will have nothing left.

“We have seen that we have no capacity to respond to a disaster of this nature. Going forward we need to find resources to recapitalise and increase the capacity of this important tourism stakeholder.

“I have talked to Minister Chinamasa about extending the two statutory instruments for the next five years, after they expired with the UNWTO general assembly,” said Minister Mzembi.

National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority manages 5 million hectares of land or 13 percent of Zimbabwe’s total land area and vital to note is the fact that most of the parks are located in natural ecological Regions Four and Five or rugged mountainous areas, which would not have much alternative economic use.

To worsen its woes, the authority has a mandate to manage the entire wildlife population of Zimbabwe, whether on private or communal lands, as per dictates of the Parks and Wildlife Act (1975).

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  • Siphathisiwe

    The tired old blame game on so called sanctions to cover up incompetent and inept management from Government Ministries over decades. It gives the impression Ministers are already planning ahead and blaming everyone else for their future anticipated failures.
    They were nominated to find solutions and execute concrete strategies, continuous preoccupation about past failures is not conducive in promoting the right mindset to successfully deal with any challenges, past present or future.
    Media has an important role in disseminating positive results policies and proposals, no matter their provenance…. Zanu-PF is not the center of the world.

  • mukwerekwere

    How come the govt faces no obstacles when replenishing it’s luxury vehicle fleet but suddenly there are sanctions when the National Parks Dept needs operational off roaders, uniforms and other necessary supplies?

    The real issue here is a lack of pride amongst Zimbabweans. Elephants are very much apart of our heritage yet there are Zimbabweans that have a price to carry out these heinous acts against creatures of national importance. We need to be better than this as guardians of our heritage.

  • Murevi

    The first and most crucial step in resolving the problems that Zimbabwe has is taking ownership and accepting that we blundered. If we genuinely believe that we are where we are because of sanctions, what it means is that we can only come out of our situations when the so called sanctions no longer exist.

  • Tawanda Chichinye

    Parks and wildlife should be generating income instead of being a cost centre. what happens to the money which we pay when going into the victoria falls rain forest. this tendency of being cry babies should stop and stop with immediate effect. If the rangers are too few and ill equipped talk to ministry of defence to give the parks to soldiers. Half of the solidiers are underutilised and always on leave. The game wardens can then act as supervisors and guides and ensure that the colonels do not steal the ivory and rhino horns. lastly the wardens must stop being law themselves. They are often have handed especially on communities bordering the parks. Get out and work and stop being cry babies. Next time anyone complains of the sanctions give us a run through of all receipts from the tourists who came to our parks and the expenditures.

    • Tamupa

      Spot on! Three guesses which countries support the National Parks the most through their visits and expenditure as tourists.

  • tony

    Looks like we are headed for total disaster with this new ‘govt’. They can’t function without the west, yet they continously say to hell with the west and the west in turn shuns them. Too bad, indeed!

  • Catherine Marozhe

    tho the authority is a complete failure, there is a hidden truth behind!!!!

  • Disaster

    This is cheap and surprising even by the Herald’s low standards. If the govt cannot but new vehicles for National Parks, how did Kasukuwere and all of his collegues get a brand new Merc and SUV last week? Where is that money coming from? We can all see where the priorities are and this is a piece of shocking journalism by the reporter. He has not even articulated in one sentence how the so called sanctions have affected the Park.
    As far as Kasukuwere and his fellow Ministers are concerned, they will everything on sanctions until 2018. But every perfect plan has a fatal flaw.

  • Munhu Mutema-tema

    cry my beloved Zimbabwe Cry. Why why. Hw come we manage to buy cars for Ministers, but the sanctions are restricting us to buy cars for operational purposes for the National Parks. Cde Minister you should have said I dont need a new Merc and a SUV lets buy cars for the operation of the National Parks, if u are really concerned. Otherwise you can as well tell us that you have no solution for the Ministry!!!

  • shaw Golazi

    @Isdore Guvamombe
    Are you confusing Tanzania with Kenya or Serengeti with Maasai Mara? Yes Serengeti is the largest but its in Tanzania. Maasai Mara is the one on the Kenyan side.


    There we go again. Sanctions that, sanctions this. This has got absolutely nothing to do with sanctions. If you can buy new vehicles for your ministers, deputy ministers and parliamentarians, you can buy anything from anyone in the world.

  • zanudhayasipora

    Wayirasa mpfana Kasukuwere. You cant be complaining uchingotanga. Do something! Handiti you are there to correct the wrongs not pass the blame and sit back in your comfortable leather chair. Snap out of this and work! You can make a difference if only you changed the way you think.

    Isu kubasa ukati kuna chef uchitaura zvekuita blame blame unobvunzwa kuti isnt that why we employed you?

  • Yondercity

    It seems that incompetence and corruption, is being hidden under the sanctions banner.
    Proper management is what is needed. Just for once stop blaming sanctions and look at yourselves. the answers required are within reach.This has nothing to do with sanctions.

  • $21812056

    That is the price of this ill advised look east policy, environmental degradation like what they have done in China. It is silly for anyone to expect them to do better. Mr Kasukuwere rather than blaming the west you should be investigating the Chinese mining in Hwange as they are the most likely source of this cyanide.

  • Oneal Patel

    Zanu pf have an impeccable record, the country’s problems are a result of Western imposed sanctions and the MDC T!

  • Moe_Syzlack

    Ana Isidore you are not even ashamed of your lies? Man you are one brainwashed *****. If Hwange is roughly the size of Switzerland why is Switzerland progressive and vibrant while we are drinking cholera water and driving on potholes? If sanctions were to blame how come dear leader never stopped his trips to the east and his sojourns to New York? Sorry, even my 8 yr old can read through your fiction above.

  • Downhill Fromhere

    Does this even qualify as journalism? I mean, WFT? Sanctions manje? How about misplaced priorities in government spending? How about bad economic management/

  • nonsenseboys

    Its called “I am not the one” syndrome: always lay blame on somebody else, shame. What a bunch of clowns so used to easily passing the buck to somebody else in the circus that is your life!!

  • succuba

    @Isdore Guvamombe

    “THE ecological disaster in Hwange National Park, where over 81 elephants and an indeterminate number of other animals succumbed to poacher-induced cyanide poisoning, has been attributed to the West’s illegal economic sanctions that affected Zimbabwe’s once-vibrant wildlife management system.”

    Firstly please tell your readers why the sanctions are “illegal”

    And secondly please tell your readers which sanction caused this ecological disaster, because if you fail to do this then the story breaks down and becomes a pack of lies.

    — Eagerly awaiting your reply Mr. Isdore Guvamombe

  • Ivu kwete

    Funds from Diamonds can cushion that Mr Minister.
    Why why everything is linked to sanctions.

  • rmunemo

    but tourism is one of the biggest foreign currency earner. so the jumbos are dying because of sanctions ?

  • Common Sense

    Blaming it on sanctions won’t bring these animals back….
    Change your attitude and be accountable ZANU-PF and then we might prevent future deaths like this….

    Zimbabwe is dying, and ZANU-PF is to blame, not sanctions, not the west, not the white man, this is self imposed by greed and selfishness of an elite totally out of touch

  • ziJ

    Almost like —I can’t make my wife pregnant bcoz of sunctions. we are tired nekunyepera masunctions.

  • garethgj

    What a lie! Your thieving partisan government is the reason sanctions are in place and that entity has NO SANCTIONS, the problem is you have frightened away tourists which your neighbouring nations which respect all their people’s rights, observe.
    The targeted measures were a direct result of human rights atrocities and incidents of vote rigging, the same issues that have driven tourists away from Zimbabwe for more than a decade.
    A scrutiny meanwhile of the targeted sanctions lists from the US, Canada, the European Union (EU) and Australia all reveal that the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority is not listed as an entity facing financial restrictions. yet more lies from this ZANU PF mouthpiece

  • gushungo

    Its better there utilise our soldiers and police .its a national disaster which needs a united effort ,such a operation is similar to what other institution are doing to raise money ,of particular interest the police and VID intheir verge to fund raise.