By Daniel Chigundu
Environment, Water and Climate Change Minister Oppah Muchinguri has said the country’s stockpile of 96 tonnes of elephant and rhino tusks is worthless on the international market.
Answering a question in Parliament on whether it was possible to use the country’s stockpile of ivory as collateral in accessing funding from the international financing institutions, Minister Muchinguri said the ivory only has value in the eye of Zimbabweans only and is worthless outside the borders.
“We are the only ones who are seeing value in ivory and a few other countries such as Japana and North Korea. China closed its domestic market from trading in ivory, so as it stands our ivory internationally and at internationally level it has no value,
“So using it as collateral to access funding as is being suggested by the Honourable Member, is not possible because it is considered valueless,” she said.
Cash-troubled Zimbabwe has been trying without success to lobby the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) so that it can be allowed to sell its 96 tonnes of elephant and rhino tusks worth an estimated US$9 billion without hindrance.
Elephants and Rhinos are part of the roughly 5 600 species of animals and 30 000 species of plants are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade.
CITES is an international agreement between governments aimed at ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
When a government decides to be bound by the provisions of CITES, it can make a formal declaration to this effect in writing to the Depositary Government, which is the Government of Switzerland and Zimbabwe joined in 1981.
Unlike Kenya which earlier this year set ablaze about 105 tonnes of ivory, Zimbabwe has refused to burn its stockpile choosing to wait for the day the trade would be allowed and has blamed Kenya, Botswana and Chad for championing the campaign for the total ban in ivory trade.
It is estimated that over 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory due to high demand of ivory in the Asian market.
During the 3rd session of the eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe, Southerton legislator Gift Chimanikire castigated government for foolishly joining CITES and signing other unnecessary protocols when it intended to sell its ivory in future.
“Mr Speaker we are very good at signing protocols that we do not need, for example CITES. We agree not to export our own rhino and elephant tusks. We are very foolish, sorry to say that Mr. Speaker.
“They do not have elephants in London, America and China, they are here (in Zimbabwe) but we are paralysed and we cannot even sell what we have. We have to burn what we have simply because we want to satisfy those colonial powers.
“Are we forgetting that they are imperialists? What is wrong with us? That is why in my presentation time and again I said we must be mad. There was Brexit; the British withdrew from the EU. Why do we not withdraw from some of the areas where we are restricted from trading?
“Why should people dictate to us who should come and hunt in this country because a single lion has been killed? We should withdraw from CITES and start selling our ivory.
“Can we be labeled a poor country when we have in excess of 8 000 elephants in the Hwange Game reserve? We are sitting and selling four of them to China. When we do that, there are news headlines to say why you are selling four young elephants to China.
“Who are they to tell us that? That is why at some stage I once said the Americans can go to hell when it comes to selling our diamonds,” said Chimanikire.
However Environment, Water and Climate Change minister Oppah Muchinguri said in as much the country would want to dump CITES so that it can sell its huge stockpile of ivory, it fears the backlash of losing trophy hunters adding that the right time will come.
By Daniel Chigundu