Funding refused for Zim sector of Transfrontier Park (30-11-06)

HARARE - Multilateral agencies and conservation groups are refusing to fund the Zimbabwean component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, one of Africa's most ambitious conversation project, because of the lawlessness of President Robert Mugabe's regime.
Industry sources said the World Ba

nk, the European Union and other conversation groups have refused funding “until things change politically in Zimbabwe.”
Without foreign currency reserves of its own, the Zimbabwean government has not been able to spend any money on new infrastructure urgently needed to allow tourists to visit the Zimbabwean sector of the park.
The government was eager to boost tourist inflows during the 2010 World Cup showcase by promoting the Zimbabwe component of the park.
The park is to straddle three international borders, uniting game areas in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe into one seamless reserve through which tourists would move without passport requirements. At 13,500 square miles, the park is billed as the second biggest transfrontier park in Africa and potentially one of the continent’s richest wildlife areas. But while work is proceeding apace on uniting the South African component, the Kruger Park, and the Mozambican element, an old hunting concession called Coutada 16, Zimbabwe has been left behind.
“The problem is the funding, because Zimbabwe has no money of its own and the foreign funders refuse to give any backing because of what is going on there,” said Prof Willem van Riet, one of the park’s main backers.
Under the Mugabe regime there has been a surge in wildlife poaching and the country’s Gonarezhou national park, which was to have been its contribution to the new game reserve, has been partly invaded by illegal squatters.
Industry officials say Zimbabwe’s de facto expulsion from the project represents an embarrassment for Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, who has sought to present the park as a good example of co-operation between African nations.
The Zimbabwean was told that road network on the South African side is very extensive in the Kruger Park but millions of pounds will be needed to create similar infrastructure in Mozambique. The German government has provided around £9 million for the project as long as it is spent in South Africa and Mozambique and not Zimbabwe.
Two shipments of animals from the Kruger Park have already been relocated to the Mozambican sector, which has very few animals because of years of civil war, hunting and poaching. Ten out of 29 elephants moved to Mozambique did not like their new surroundings, however, and trekked for more than 100 miles back to the South African sector, according to Van Riet.
Zimbabwe Council for Tourism CEO Paul Matamisa said there was a need for a separate budget from line ministries to cater for the transfrontier park if Zimbabwe is to get any spin-offs from the World Cup set to be hosted by South Africa in 2010.
“Zimbabwe is basically being left behind because of what is going on there at the political level,” a senior conservation source said. “It is a great pity but until things change politically Zimbabwe will not be involved in the project.”

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