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Cablegate: Rumored Development Project in National Park

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS HARARE 001180

SIPDIS

AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVELLE
USDOC ROBERT TELCHIN
TREASURY FOR JOHN RALYEA
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON
USDOI/FWS FOR RICHARD RUGGIERO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV KIDE ECON EFIN PGOV ZI
SUBJECT: RUMORED DEVELOPMENT PROJECT IN NATIONAL PARK
UNSUBSTANTIATED

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Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) Vice
President Johnny Rodriguez claimed in July in a widely
distributed newsletter that the GOZ was planning an
agricultural development project in the middle of the Mana
Pools National Park. This claim remains unsubstantiated and
appears to be based on a proposal, rejected two-years ago, to
turn an old failed sugar estate in the park into a winter
maize farm. End Summary

-------------------------------------------
Alleged Development Plan for Protected Area
-------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) In early July 2005, ZCTF Vice President Johnny
Rodriguez claimed in a widely distributed newsletter that the
GOZ planned to start a massive agricultural project in the
middle of the environmentally sensitive Mana Pools National
Park. The notice raised an alarm in local and international
environmental circles. In the newsletter, Rodriguez alleged
that Vice President Joyce Mujuru had sanctioned the
refurbishment of an old sugar plantation in the Chirundu area
within the park and in neighboring GOZ-designated Safari
Areas near Zimbabwe,s northwestern border with Zambia.
Rodriguez further alleged to PolOff on July 12 that the plans
were complete and work was ready to begin. He promised to
provide proof of the project within a week, but has failed to
follow up with any evidence despite several further requests.

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The Apparent Situation
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3. (SBU) Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority
Chairman of the Board George Pangeti told PolOff on August 18
that there was no development project underway in Chirundu.
He added that he was concerned that Rodriguez,s announcement
and the ensuing publicity could damage the Authority,s
reputation and impede its work on other programs. According
to Pangeti, the source of the rumor was a meeting in 2003 in
which a group of investors had proposed turning a failed
sugar estate within the Park into a winter maize farm. The
National Parks Authority nixed the plan based on its
environmental impact on a sensitive area. Pangeti added that
as far as he knew no other such project was under
consideration and that he had personally confirmed this with
Agriculture Minister Made and Environment and Tourism
Minister Nhema.

4. (SBU) In a separate August 18 meeting, University of
Zimbabwe Environment Professor Cummings confirmed Pangeti,s
account of the 2003 proposal. However, he did not discount
the possibility that someone could now be talking up the
project to access concessional financing without, however,
any intention of actually going forward with the project.
(N.B. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is granting loans for
agriculture production at five percent interest while market
rates are over 200 percent.)

--------
Comment
--------

5. (SBU) While the evidence doesn't appear to bear out
Rodriguez's allegations in this case, we fully expect more
disputes of this sort to emerge. Disappointed in their
ability to exploit their farms under land reform, ruling
party bigwigs increasingly have been scheming to grab and
exploit environmentally sensitive areas that they believe
could generate hard currency revenue from tourism, especially
hunting.
SCHULTZ

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