The Zanu PF Masvingo provincial leadership has resolved to let the more than 15 000 settlers in the Save Valley Conservancy stay put, saying evicting them with general elections around the corner would be political suicide.
Provincial spokesperson, Ronald Ndava told TellZim News at the weekend that the government should, instead relocate wildlife from the conservancy to other habitats such as Gonarezhou National Park and Malilangwe Conservancy.
“Our primary concern is people, not animals. We heard that the provincial administrator (Fungai Mbetsa) was complaining that everything was happening behind his back and without his knowledge,” he said.
“We have better places to relocate those animals; such places as Gonarezhou and Malilangwe.
“We will never support the prioritisation of animals over people.
“It is [the] government that resettled those people and it won’t make sense to reverse that in favour of the European Union (EU) position.”
Ndava accused the EU, the biggest donor in conservation efforts in the Lowveld, of trying to use its money to stampede the government into toeing its line.
Save Valley Conservancy houses most of Southern Africa’s prime game species including “The Big Five” — elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino.
The conservancy, located in the south-eastern Lowveld, bordering Save River to the east, is one of the biggest private game reserves in Africa.
It comprises 750 000 acres of diverse wildlife habitat, but was invaded by thousands of land-hungry people at the height of the land reform programme in the early 2000s.
The settlers have resisted calls for them to leave or to be relocated.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) recently conducted a survey as part of plans to fence off the conservancy and relocate the people.
The process, however, came to a halt after provincial administrator, Mbetsa distanced himself from the process, reportedly due to pressure from Zanu PF, politicians who feared the settlers would defect to the opposition.