The Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe has questioned the veracity of a story that was published by The Insider on 15 October in which the association’s Administrative Officer Sally Bown was reported to have listed several hunters as being involved in unethical and marginally legal hunting.
The story, entitled: Hunting major source of revenue for ZANU-PF elite, was based on a Wikileaks cable that was dispatched by the United States embassy in Harare on 23 October 2008.
The story said ZANU-PF elite were developing new hunting schemes to earn more foreign currency.
In a statement signed by the association’s chairman Emmanuel Fundira SOAZ said some of the information published by Wikileaks was not completely accurate.
It said only two people named in the Wikileaks report were members of SOAZ.
In the case of Wayne Grant, it was a case of mistaken identity.
The statement said Charlton McCallum Safaris took up the offer to hunt in Parks and shot four elephants under the scheme but withdrew after consulting SOAZ.
The Insider has clearly stated on several occasions that it is publishing Wikileaks cables simply to inform its readers about what the US embassy in Harare reported to Washington.
It is immaterial whether what is stated in the cables is true or false. What is important for The Insider, however, is that this is what Washington was told and shaped Washington’s policy on Harare.
The section of the cable that raised SOAZ’s complaint read: “Bown, Save Valley Conservancy Director Clive Stockil and other conservationists opined in conversations with us that hunting permits were issued by Parks under intense pressure from its politicized board and ZANU-PF. Bown believed this frantic last grab at hunting revenue was one more aspect of ZANU-PF insiders’ efforts to strip assets and fill their pockets before losing power to the MDC. She said that the same small group of hunters involved in this operation had been consistently involved in unethical and marginally legal hunting. Bown had no evidence that they were involved specifically with sanctioned individuals within the Mugabe regime, but believed such connections were likely.
“According to Bown, the Zimbabwean professional hunters involved include Guy Whitall, Tim Schultz of African Dream Safaris, Headman Sibanda and Wayne Grant of Nyala Safaris, Evans Makanza, Alan Shearing, Buzz Charlton and James Macullam of Charlton Macullum Safaris, A.J. Van Heerden of Shashe Safaris, Barry Van Heerden of Big Game Safaris, and Lawrence Boha. (COMMENT: Numerous conservationists have suggested the Van Heerden brothers are involved in suspicious hunting and land deals with the Director of the Central Intelligence Organization, Happyton Bonyongwe, although none have provided proof of the relationship. END COMMENT.) Additionally, one safari operator accused an American, by name, of killing a lion illegally and then smuggling its hide out through South Africa. Given the rampant smuggling of other animal products across Zimbabwe’s southern border (reftel), this is not unlikely. As reported in reftel, American hunting dollars are vital to Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts, but there are also serious risks that Americans could be implicated in smuggling and poaching operations.”
Below is the full statement of SOAZ:
STATEMENT FROM SAFARI OPERATORS ASSOCIATION OF ZIMBABWE
With reference to the articles appearing on internet sites which use information from 2008 published by Wikkieleaks, and which are not completely accurate, the Association wishes to make the following points:
- 1. The US Consulate requested information in 2008 pertaining to a situation which existed then. The report from the US Embassy in Harare to Washington was captured by Wikkieleaks.
- 2. SOAZ is not the sole source of information gathered by the US Embassy.
- 3. Only two names mentioned in these articles are members of SOAZ and we comment as follows:
- a) Wayne Grant. This is a case of mistaken identity and SOAZ have no reports or complaints against Wayne Grant on their records.
- b) Charlton McCallum Safaris. This company availed themselves of the offer to hunt in the Parks in 2008 and did shoot 4 elephant under this scheme. After consulting with members of the SOAZ Committee, they thereafter withdrew from the scheme. From that time to the current date no further reports or complaints have been received by SOAZ, and we consider this company to be above-board and ethical.
- 4. The others named are not members of SOAZ or ZPHGA.
- 5. SOAZ trusts that in future information from 2008 will not be used years later in an effort to link the information to a new situation to which it has no connection, such as the Save Valley Conservancy, as appears to have been the case in these articles.
Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe