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Open letter to director of National Parks Authority

I WRITE regarding the incident that occurred in the Umfurudzi Safari Area on Thursday, October 16, which I believe, has already been brought to your attention.

=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>My family and I were amongst those camping at Hippo Pools campsite on that evening. At approximately 8:30pm we heard singing and shouting, and were advised by Mr Jarvis (the owner of the camp within the National Park) that it appeared to be war veterans who had come in by bus, and that he was going to investigate.

About 45 minutes later, one of the camp workers came around the campsites and chalets, and told us that the “war veterans” were insisting that all “whites” pack up camp immediately and return to Harare. Initially, the problem appeared to be one of race. However, the camp next to us was made up of people of all complexions, and they eventually lost a lot of their equipment as they could not pack up fast enough.

We decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and packed up. Whilst we were doing this, Jarvis returned, accompanied by the “team leader” who ordered us in no uncertain terms back to Harare.

He magnanimously said we could pack all our belongings, which we continued to do. We fortunately managed to pack everything and left, only to be accosted on the way out by a group of youths, standing by a fire and brandishing axes and other primitive weapons, who demanded that we “put down all the food”. We carried on driving.

I realise that we escaped lightly given what has been happening on Zimbabwean farms. We have already had to leave a home on a farm. But my challenge to you, sir, is what are you doing about this criminal assault on our National Parks? Those youths were far too young to be war veterans, and there was not a uniform in sight, “green bomber” or no. What kind of security are you providing in our parks when any ragtag bunch of criminals can appropriate a bus or some other means of transport, sing a song, wave an axe around and chase away tourists?

We were not all white, and not all Zimbabwean that night. What is the plan for improving the abysmal tourism statistics in this country when things such as this are allowed to happen?

Should you choose to ignore this incident, you are betraying the sacred trust put in you by the people of Zimbabwe. You are trusted to guard our wildlife, our heritage for all of our children. You have, too, the trust of the people of the world over, for you have in your care world heritage sites.

You have the legal and actual power to stop this kind of criminal activity. An armed National Parks unit could stop any such desecration. What are you doing?

JA Van Wyk,


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