By Tichaona Sibanda
Poaching in Gonarezhou national park is threatening the existence of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a joint initiative between Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The park, created through an agreement signed in 2002 by the heads of State of the three countries, joins three national parks, South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou and Mozambique’s Limpopo national parks.
This created the world’s largest protected open space, abundant in wildlife. Reports suggest it is home to more than 500 bird species, 147 mammal species, 116 reptile species, 34 frog species and 49 fish species.
The Transfrontier Park, measuring 350, 000 km2 has since 2005 been facing problems of poaching, on the Zimbabwean side. Parts of Gonarezhou national park are also occupied by victims of Operation Murambatsvina, a clean out campaign that saw over 700,000 Zimbabweans lose their homes and livelihoods in the demolishing of houses.
When the government failed to find land to relocate most of the victims, some ended up camping inside the Gonarezhou Park, and have lived there for the last nine years, against the rules of the Transfrontier agreement.
Johnny Rodrigues, the director of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force told SW Radio Africa that poaching, on a massive scale, was taking place in Gonarezhou as the land invaders make a living through illegal hunting of animals.
“Part of the deal signed by the three governments prohibits people living in the area designated for the Transfrontier Park. So the problem for Zimbabwe has dragged on for close to ten years now and I guess the delay to move the people is raising eyebrows in Mozambique and South Africa,” Rodrigues said.
Meanwhile the seizure of Mazoe citrus estate, the prime land asset of Interfresh Holdings, by President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace, has blocked external lines of credit to the firm. It has emerged that traditional financiers, including Industrial Development Corporation South Africa (IDCSA), now fear their investments are at risk as the company struggles for survival.
The weekly Zimbabwe Independent paper reported that Grace’s land grabs left Interfresh on the brink of collapse, while investors are scurrying for cover fearing their money will sink in an increasingly unviable enterprise being destroyed by the unceasing land confiscations.
Before Grace’s invaded part of the land, Interfresh had total land holdings of 3 800 hectares. The President’s wife took 870 hectares, leaving Interfresh with 2, 930.