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Cablegate: Trans-Frontier Park Update

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




E.O. 12958: N/A



Ref: Harare 1238


1. (SBU) Since assuming the coordinating role in the Great
Limpopo Trans-Frontier Park (GLTP) in January 2005, the GOZ
has neither coordinated with stakeholders nor taken adequate
steps to develop the infrastructure in Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou
National Park. While fast-track land reform and land tenure
uncertainty stymie Zimbabwe,s active participation in the
tri-country initiative, South Africa and Mozambique are
pressing ahead. Save Valley Conservancy (SVC) and the
Malilangwe Trust (each of which include U.S. citizen
principals) have offered to use their international contacts
and access to capital to help finance the Park,s
infrastructure development through a Public Private Community
Partnership. In return, the conservancies want secure land
title and GOZ assistance in resettling squatters off the
protected land. The passage of the Constitutional Amendments
Bill on August 30, however, further jeopardizes the
conservancies, property rights and creates an environment of
uncertainty around public private initiatives to develop the
Trans-Frontier Park under GOZ leadership. End Summary.

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As Zimbabwe Stalls, South Africa and Mozambique Act
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2. (SBU) The Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, along with
the Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Limpopo
National Park in Mozambique, comprise the 100,000 square
kilometer GLTP ) one of the biggest wildlife sanctuaries in
Africa. Chairman of the National Parks and Wildlife
Authority George Pangeti told Econoff on August 18 that
infrastructure development at Gonarezhou was progressing
rapidly. The Authority had a GLTP coordinator in place who
was consulting with stakeholders. In addition, the GOZ had
decided to move settlers out of the Park after their harvest
season. Pangeti stated categorically that the GOZ had
decided to include the SVC and Malilangwe Trust in the GLTP.
He dismissed the Trusts, concerns about land tenure security.

3. (SBU) According to University of Zimbabwe Environment
Professor David Cummings, Zimbabwe has not built adequate
tourism infrastructure for the development of the GLTP.
Continued confusion over land tenure rights and the failure
of the GOZ to move settlers out of Gonarezhou have frustrated
any significant progress. Raoul DuToit of the World Wildlife
Fund told Econoff in August that formal local and national
structures and institutions were in place for effective
development of Gonarezhou but the GOZ had failed to
coordinate, make decisions, or push the process forward.

4. (SBU) In the same vein, Giuseppe DaConto of CESVI (the
Italian counterpart to USAID, which has been funding
development projects in Gonarezhou) complained to Econoff
that the GOZ had not consulted with stakeholders adequately,
a concern echoed by Cummings, DuToit, and Clive Stockil of
the SVC. All three compared the Zimbabwean coordinator,s
inaction unfavorably to the steady dialogue that took place
under Mozambique,s leadership in 2004.

5. (SBU) Cummings told PolOff (and DaConto later confirmed)
that South Africa and Mozambique were moving ahead with their
GLTP development plans. The two countries have recently torn
down fences and opened a bridge between the Kruger and
Limpopo National Parks.

--------------------------------------------- --
Zimbabwe Private Sector Willing to Assist . . .
--------------------------------------------- --

6. (SBU) Weldon Schenck, an American investor in the SVC,
told Econoff on August 23 that Environment and Tourism
Minister Francis Nhema had approved a Public Private
Community Partnership (PPCP) Trust including the National
Parks, SVC, Malilangwe, and the local communities living in
and around Gonarezhou. The Trust could tap the private
conservancies, access to capital and international
connections to finance tourism concessions in the GLTP.
Tourism would generate a return on private investment and an
income stream for local communities in exchange for their
commitment to refrain from subsistence poaching. Schenck and
Stockil told Econoff they hoped to leverage their willingness
to help the GOZ with GLTP infrastructure development to gain
secure land tenure.

7. (SBU) As part of this plan, DuToit explained to Econoff,
the GOZ would allocate ten concessions in Gonarezhou to
develop tourism facilities. The PPCP Trust would be
guaranteed two of these concessions and could bid on more.
However, DuToit expressed concern that the GOZ would hand out
the tenders within its patronage network rather than to
parties dedicated to sustainable tourism development. There
were some indications that this had indeed happened, he said,
although tender winners had not yet been named officially.
Pangeti, in a separate meeting, adamantly denied that the
National Parks would grant concessions to anyone but
conservation minded individuals.

. . . But Might Have Lost Bargaining Power

8. (SBU) On August 30, the Parliament of Zimbabwe passed the
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bills (reftel) that, among
other things, granted title to the government of all
agricultural properties previously designated for acquisition
by the GOZ. Since all the properties in the SVC and
Malilangwe Trust have received notices of designation for
acquisition, the GOZ could acquire them at any time. As a
practical matter, however, whether or how quickly the GOZ
will act to remove or take control over privately held
wildlife areas remains to be seen.

9. (SBU) According to Stockil, the SVC,s property rights are
unclear. Although designated for agriculture, the GOZ is
re-categorizing the area for tourism/wildlife use but had not
yet confirmed the change. Stockil planned to move forward
with the Public Private Community Partnership Trust and
present it to the highest levels of the GOZ. He said the SVC
had nothing to gain by forcing an immediate GOZ decision on
the status of its land tenure but could indirectly influence
the outcome if the GOZ agreed to the conservancy,s proposal
to develop the GLTP and help the local rural communities.


10. (SBU) Land tenure insecurity and an extremely unfavorable
investment climate are driving international investment away
from an otherwise exciting regional wildlife park.
Nonetheless, private conservancies with an established stake
in the Park have been willing to help the GOZ attract
investment in exchange for secure land tenure. Passage of
the Constitutional Amendment Bill, however, has cast yet
another layer of uncertainty over the conservancies,
property rights and their ability to engage the GOZ in an
effective development partnership. The GOZ,s instincts to
allocate resources through its patronage system and its
penchant for taking self-destructive action do not bode well
for its vibrant participation in this regional wildlife park.
Perhaps the best hope is that the GOZ may recognize the
potential for increased tourism revenue and allow a rational
approach to developing the park to prevail, but the evidence
thus far does not favor an optimistic outlook.

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