10th December: We get to bed after 11 pm tonight, so much to talk about after Clive’s weary return from the meeting at Hakamela…
The little girls came to Tsavene this afternoon and Jade swam for hours in the beige-brown depths of our pool, joining the frogs and water scorpions to escape the heat of the day. Learning to dive, she does great belly flops and then energetically doggy paddles length after length. She is a natural water baby! Rayne more cautious, but loving the thought of swimming, if not the reality….
As we now sit on our front verandah in the dusk listening to Clive tell of the day, elephants sneak up and drink from our waterhole. The lions call far off, as they have been doing all day, making me wonder where and what they have killed, to be making such a noise in daylight hours…
The night settles around us, Clive talks, we listen…..
The pick up of five ministers, permanent secretaries, representatives of National Parks, including Caroline Washaya Moyo of Zimbabwe National Parks, at Buffalo Range airport, was on time,
All were ferried to Hakamela where the Traditional leadership waited and where refreshments were served to the Ministers by wide-eyed Hakamela staff.
Hakamela has never seen such a crowd, with every available bicycle being utilized for local populace from Chiredzi and surrounds to join the ranks of the meeting, and those not so lucky arriving on foot. The meeting hall groaned with tightly packed rows of expectant people and a wave of onlookers stood without…
Meeting chaired by Minister Kasukuwere, who gave everyone ample chance to speak their minds, and adequately managed the crowd. No mean feat with such a volume of people. Speeches by the Chiefs reflected their determination to be part of Zimbabwe’s indigenisation programme, to be partners with Save Valley Conservancy, to the exclusion of other currently vested interests such as the ‘new beneficiaries’ who were issued leases last year, was re-iterated.
Speeches by Ministers all varied according to their portfolio interests, Minister Mzembi stating that Minister Kasukuwere was preserving the resource, the environment, for him as Tourism Minister to market to overseas tourists. The spirit was one of working together, of unity…
The ‘new beneficiaries’ were given time to talk. They felt that the Conservancy members were not willing to deal with them.
‘Old beneficiaries’ (aka the Save Valley Conservancy members) were invited to talk. The meeting being conducted in Shona, all eyes looked to Clive, and the Minister directed him to stand and deliver! Which he did. One of his comments being that the size of the resource needed to be understood, the placement of the Game fence needed to be decided, before we could understand how to include beneficiaries. Clive gave the analogy of a pot of sadza…(our local maize meal porridge cooked thick like polenta)…the pot of sadza is steaming, ready to eat….expectant diners are waiting, but no one is quite sure how many people will get fed until the pot is actually dished out into portions for all to see….so it is with the perceived benefits of the Save Valley Conservancy.
The need for transparency in all mutual dealings was re-iterated.
Speech by Minister Kasukuwere…. stated that he felt that the Save a Valley Conservancy had indeed shown willingness to work with Government on a viable solution for the future.
Among other heartwarming statements made was one to the effect that wars were fought not in the field but around a table, strategic plans put in place which are then effected in the field. Government would decide where the essential game fence would be placed around the Conservancy, which would protect Wildlife and adjacent villagers, and that once that decision was made, no one would gainsay it. Wildlife on the Conservancy side of the fence would be completely protected, and those who transgressed would have to deal with the full wrath of the law.
Lunch at mid afternoon, was a surprise and encouragement for Clive…he was directed by the Ministers to sit at their top table of only 9 people…a clear message of their willingness to show engagement with the Save Valley Conservancy.
Government, Traditional Leaders, Save Valley Conservancy members, and all parties have shown commitment to moving forward with practical plans for continued wildlife use and conservation of these arid zones that we live in, in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe.
It is expected that the issues will be further clarified in Harare this coming week, after President Mugabe’s return from the sadness of attending Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa.
Clive now goes to bed exhausted, drained, but hopeful that the meeting was a huge and vital step forward for Conservation and Tourism in Zimbabwe.
11th December: I am restless, listening to the lions, loud again, in the early hours of this morning. They are back at our waterhole, muttering and calling to each other.
The Jack Russell pups start and growl at the end of my bed..raised noses sniffing. Lifting my head, I peer towards the open window, wonder if I will see a shaggy feline head silhouetted there….but no head appears, and a curious feeling of resignation to fate allows me to ignore the prospect and drop back to fragmented sleep!
Have heard on the radio via a scout on our neighboring ranch, Hammond, that yesterday these lions killed and ate a giraffe…was it young, injured? Quite a feat for lions to kill a giraffe, but possibly there were many of them to overpower it…..
Here is my painting, Full Eclipse Giraffe…..