World's Largest Transborder Conservation Area

HARARE, Zimbabwe, May 5, 2000 (ENS) - The government ministers responsible for natural resources environmental affairs, wildlife, forestry, agriculture, fisheries and mining in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe met Tuesday in Harare to consolidate plans for what could become the biggest Transfrontier Conservation Area in the world.

The three countries plan to drop the fences now enclosing these separate conservation areas. The newly protected area will encompass roughly 100,000 square kilometers (38,000 square miles).

The areas to be included in the Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Transfrontier Area are:

Gonarezhou together with the adjoining Mozambique wildlife area forms a natural migratory triangle for the animal population of the Kruger National Park.

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Map of Africa showing the proposed conservation area in a red circle. (Map by Richard Lewis, mapping softwar courtesy ESRI)
While these areas have disparities in terms of infrastructure and other resources, the ministers expressed confidence that the current operation of each of these countries' conservation areas will be a springboard to investment opportunities.

The ministers envision these investments being used to support "sustainable utilisation of natural resources" and a "carefully considered step by step implementation process."

The trilateral committee of ministers will continue to give political direction to this process. A technical committee and a working group will carry out support functions to the ministerial committee.

South Africa was designated as a project leader, a rotating position that change every two years.

Legislation of the three countries will have to be harmonized of legislation to standardize law enforcement, the ministers said in a joint statement.

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Sandstone Chilojo Cliffs of Gonarezhou. (Photo courtesy Dusty Dawn Safaris)
Needs for training to local workers will be assessed so that expected enterprises can be supported by well trained personnel.

The three countries will develop a joint strategy to deal with wildlife diseases. Landmines will be cleared.

Issues relating to human inheritance claims in conservation areas will be resolved, the ministers said, with the involvement of affected communities, non-government organizations and stakeholders in the three countries concerned.

A plan of action with clear time frames was adopted which will lead to the signing of a Transfrontier Conservation Agreement by the ministers on the June 19 at the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

The accord appears to be on schedule despite the uproar over the actions of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party, whose supporters have openly attacked and killed members of the main opposition party and ignored several court orders.

In February, Zimbabwean voters handed Mugabe his first loss at the ballot box since 1980, rejecting his proposed new constitution.

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Cheetah in South Africa's Kruger National Park (Photo by Arden Skelton courtesy Kruger National Park)
The Zimbabwean government will begin seizing white owned farms without compensation within two weeks, a cabinet minister said on May 1. The government says it will distribute the farmland to black peasant farmers.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has not condemned Mugabe. In a speech to the nation Thursday, Mbeki said that the object of the seizures is to reverse "the colonial legacy of the land dispossession of the indigenous black majority," in Zimbabwe.

Earlier this week the brother of an opposition candidate for parliament was killed - the 15th death in Zimbabwe's two month old land crisis that has upped the stakes ahead of the parliamentary elections expected in June.

Today, self-styled former guerrillas of Zimbabwe's war of independence invaded 42 more white owned farms within hours of a warning by President Mugabe that his government would step up efforts to acquire land for blacks, farming officials said Thursday.

At a meeting of African leaders in the Zimbabwean resort of Victoria Falls on Good Friday, South African President Thabo Mbeki gave public support to Mugabe, while President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique described the Zimbabwean President as a "champion" of the rule of law.

The unrest has prompted Britain and other nations create contingency plans for the rescue of their citizens still resident in Zimbabwe through neighbouring countries.