Zimbabwe Takes Action Against Wildlife Poachers

zimbabwe wildlife poaching

In the wake of a major poaching incident that gained international attention, Zimbabwe has launched a campaign against poachers that sends a strong message of Zimbabwean leadership. The country will not stand for the plundering of precious and irreplaceable local fauna or the desecration of majestic wildlife for sport.

International poaching syndicates kill elephants and rhinoceroses to obtain their tusks and horns which are in high demand in east Asia where these animal parts are believed to possess medicinal and magical properties. In this most recent episode in Hwange National Park, poachers poisoned salt licks near watering holes frequented by these majestic beasts, leading to the death of more than 80 elephants and uncounted numbers of buffalo and kudu. The reverberations of these wanton killings are still being felt throughout the park’s ecosystem as predators and scavengers become secondary casualties after consuming the poisoned flesh of the felled herbivores. Deaths have been reported in the park’s lion, leopard and bird populations as the poison works its way up and down the environmental food chain.

Local authorities were alerted to this most recent development earlier this month when they discovered two rotting carcasses of de-tusked elephants. The situation rapidly escalated as more animals were discovered dead. Thus far, eight suspects have been arrested and police have confiscated 51 tusks – valued at more than US$ 360,000. The Zimbabwe government also dispatched a high-level delegation to the park to assess the situation on the ground. The Minister of Environment, Savior Kasukuwere, announced a “war against poaching” while the Tourism and Hospitality minister, Walter Mzembi took to the airwaves, describing the situation as a “murder” of Zimbabwe’s wildlife, and vowing to take the fight to the international level.

Proving the seriousness of the country’s intentions on the matter, a Zimbabwean court has sentenced three of the poachers to 16 years in prison for killing the elephants and convicted them for illegal possession of ivory, contravening a law that prohibits the possession and discharge of hazardous substances into the environment. The men were also ordered to pay fines ranging from $200,000 to $600,000 that must each be paid before the close of the year. According to the police investigating the matter, this was the work of an organized crime syndicate. The remaining accused will be standing trial next month.

The Minister of Environment, Savior Kasukuwere issued a statement, welcoming “the bold stance by the judiciary” in protecting Zimbabwe’s wildlife. Poaching has been on the rise in Zimbabwe in recent years as the state national parks management agency is seriously under-funded as a result of a severely depressed economy over the past decade. In Hwange National Park only 50 rangers patrol the 14,650 square km park, about one tenth of the number of rangers needed.

Africa has lost 75 percent of its elephant population, largely due to poaching, according to a recent United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report, though most of the poaching takes place in Kenya and Tanzania, which account for 70 percent of the global illegal ivory trade. It is reassuring to see the people and government of Zimbabwe taking a leadership role in solving the crisis to secure the natural habitat of many specifics for their own sake and for future generations of humans to explore.


Tourism in Zimbabwe Is On The Upswing Again

zimbabwe news

Tourism in Zimbabwe Is On The Upswing Again

Following years of struggle precipitated by the country’s controversial Land Reform Program of 2000, which saw tourism plunge by over 75%, Zimbabwe’s tourism sector is now showing major signs of a recovery. The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) reports that there has been a 12% increase in arrivals for the first half of this year compared to last, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) held it’s biannual General Assembly recently at Zimbabwe’s breathtaking Victoria Falls.

The successful hosting of UNWTO at the crown jewel of Zimbabwe’s many tourist attractions, sends the signal that Zimbabwe is a ready to become an international tourist destination hot spot. Karikoga Kaseke, the chief executive of the ZTA has said that he anticipates Zimbabwe will be receiving more than three million tourists annually by 2015, which would be more than double the peak of 1.4 million tourists that the country attracted during the 1999 calendar year.

With a collection of five United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCOUNESCO) World Heritage Sites in a county that is the roughly the size of the US state of Montana, or the country of Germany, Zimbabwe offers natural treasures that simply cant not be seen or duplicated anywhere else.

The majesty of Victoria Falls, at two kilometers wide, is the world’s widest waterfal, Mana Pools National Park, provides one of Africa’s top wildlife viewing opportunities with unspoiled vistas supporting large herds of elephants, buffalo, hippopotamuses and a large resident population of crocodiles. Other Zimbabwean UNESCO Cultural Sites include the remains of stone age cave settlements in Matobo Hills National Park, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, the capital city of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe which was abandoned in the 14th century, and the ruins of Khami a city that was once the capitol of the Kingdom of Butua dating back to the 16th century.

From an economic perspective tourism is a vital source of hard currency for Zimbabwe. Since enacting reforms in 2009 which retired their national currency to adopt the US Dollar as their primary currency in conjunction with the Pound, the Euro and the South African Rand – the country has seen economic growth rates over 5% year over year fueling a recovery and return to tourist travel lists. In an interview, Mr. Kaseke went on to state that the successful hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly would bear fruit for Zimbabwe, sending a clear message to the international community that Zimbabwe is a safe destination worthy of attention from adventurous travelers which will lead to more than 1.5 billion dollars in tourism receipts for the country by 2015. With the unrivaled collection of wonders, exotic culture and newly-stabilized domestic situation, it’s easy to share optimism about the future of Zimbabwe!


Perennial Water Shortages to be Solved Harare Zimbabwe

zimbabwe water shortage

After years of intermittent water service brought on by failing equipment and the disruptions of the early 21st century’s political and financial crises, work has begun on a major infrastructure upgrade to the water system of the city of Harare in Zimbabwe. The Morton Jaffray Water Works, a water treatment plant that was built in 1953, has been suffering failures due to the age of its equipment, exacerbated by the constraints of the economic chaos of the previous decade which made keeping the plant running at optimum efficiency and capacity an impossibility. With a $144 million loan secured from Chinese Export and Import Bank, the plant is to be extensively renovated to meet the needs of today and the future.

The upgrade to the water treatment facility will include replacing all to the plant’s pumps and antiquated valves and is anticipated to increase the capacity of the plant to 740 mega-liters a day from it’s current output of approximately 600 mega-liters. More importantly, as the equipment will be all-new, it is expected that the plant will not suffer the service interruptions that have plagued the waterworks over the past decade.

In addition to the upgrading of the waterworks, plans include replacing over 200 km of old and leaky water mains. It is estimated that up to 60% of the clean, treated water produced today is lost due to leaks within the distribution system. New water meters are to be installed throughout the city, replacing the antiquated units currently in place and public pre-pay water dispensers will be installed on the city’s main avenues to provide safe clean water to those without a connection to the water system.

In addition to supply-side upgrades, the City of Harare is planning on repairing nearly 100 km of sewer lines which are also antiquated, damaged and leaking. These investments in the infrastructure underlying Zimbabwe’s capital city looks toward a brighter future for all its citizens and visitors.


European Union Lifts Zimbabwean Sanctions To Restore Diamond Mining

zimbabwe diamond mining

The European Union recently lifted sanctions against a Zimbabwe firm that controls some of the world’s largest diamond fields. The Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), a joint venture of the Zimbabwean government and private enterprise, is the latest, and largest Zimbabwean company to be removed from the EU sanctions list after many of its decade-old restrictions were lifted on other firms and individuals earlier this year. Additionally, the EU lifted the asset-freeze that had been in effect against ZMDC, which had been blacklisted for allegedly funneling funds to President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.

US and EU sanctions were originally imposed against Mugabe and his allies in 2002 on the grounds of political violence, human rights abuses and the failure to hold free and fair elections. The “targeted sanctions” froze the assets of selected institutions and individuals, but did not prohibit trade. In fact, Zimbabwe and the EU did $875 million in business last year, while trade between Zimbabwe and the United States amounted to $110 million. The sanctions were meant to give Brussels and Washington some leverage over Harare and individuals, and companies have been removed from the lists to reward anti-corruption efforts. For example, over the past year, the US removed two banks and the EU removed 81 individuals and eight corporate entities from their black lists to reward the May passage of a new constitution that limited Mugabe’s power Earlier this year, for instance, the U.S. removed two Zimbabwean banks from its sanction list while the EU removed 81 people and eight institutions. The move was meant to commend the May 22 passage of a new constitution limiting presidential powers.

The seeds of this recent ZMDC decision were planted last February, when EU foreign ministers promised to remove the government-allied diamond mining firm from the blacklist in advance of the Zimbabwe’s national elections this past July, should they prove “credible.” The move was intended to encourage a fair and transparent vote, and while there have been widespread accusations of irregularities in the voting process, the reelection of president Mugabe for another five year term has been accepted by the EU as an incontrovertible fact.

The lifting of these sanctions will come as good news to Belgium, which has been one of the strongest proponents of lifting the sanctions against ZMDC. As a hub for diamond processing, the Belgium city of Antwerp is heavily dependent on obtaining raw diamonds or cutting and polishing into high quality gemstones, work it has been increasingly losing out on to lower wage processors in India and China, countries that have less activist positions when it comes to their international trade policies.

Belgian officials estimate that the lifting of these sanctions will increase Zimbabwe’s tax revenues by approximately $400 million annually. ZMDC’s operations on behalf of the government, which include five joint-venture mines in the diamond fields of Marange, yielded exports worth $685 million last year, according to the Zimbabwe Herald, a state-owned newspaper.


Zimbabwe Mining Boom Continues

zimbabwe mining

Fueled by the economic stabilization of the economy brought on by the financial reforms of 2009, which included retiring the hyper-inflation dogged Zimbabwean Dollar in favor of foreign hard currencies such as the US Dollar, and the South African Rand, Zimbabwe’s mining sector grew by an astounding 35 percent annually from 2009 to 2011. Accordingly, the mining sector’s contribution to Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product increased from 4 percent to 16.9 percent, overtaking the agricultural sector as the largest source of economic growth and mining now accounts for over 50% of foreign exchange cash inflows to the country.

Addressing the annual Mining and Infrastructure Indaba held in Harare recently, the president of the Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe, Alex Mhembere, said that to continue Zimbabwe’s explosive growth in mining, there was a pressing need to re-open closed mines as well as founding new ones to extract the vast mineral wealth that underlies the country.

While growth in the mining sector was “only” 19.2 percent in 2012, this is attributed to capital issues rather than a shortage of natural resources. President Mugambe appears to be on board with the importance of mining for the continuing and future health of the Zimbabwean economy, making supportive statements in the press about the industry’s ability to drive Zimbabwe’s economic growth.

This year has seen an increase in production of every major mineral that Zimbabwe mines, with the exception of chrome, production of which is expected to decline slightly from last year. The totals for fiscal 2012 show marked increases from the previous year, with gold production increasing from 14,700kg to 17,000kg, platinum 10,500kg to 12,500kg, palladium 8,000kg to 12,000kg, and diamond production increasing from 12 million carats to 16.9 million carats.

Coal production, so critical to provide for Zimbabwe’s fuel and power needs, has also seen a 15% increase in production last year. The mining sector has become important and central to the economy of Zimbabwe with the Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe stating that its tax contribution to the country grew from US $58 million in 2009 to US $445 million in 2012. Employment in the mining sector is also contributing mightily to Zimbabwe’s economic growth, with 45,000 Zimbabweans employed in the mineral extraction industry, and increase of 12,000 jobs from the 2009 employment figures, and spurring an economic boom in towns and cities like Kwekwe, Gweru, Bindura, Zvishavane and Hwange, driven in large part by the increases in mining activity.

Seeking to facilitate the continuing expansion, Mines and Mining Development Minister, Walter Chidhakwa, has announced that the government is working on a new progressive mineral development policy that will not only speak to the country’s aspirations, but would also cater to foreign investors’ needs for high returns and clear cut ownership rights, stating that a new Mines and Minerals Act will be ratified by end of this year.