Is South Africa Going The Way Of Zimbabwe?

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Steve Scott, Sep 11, 2017.

  1. Steve Scott

    Steve Scott AH Member

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    I did a piece for NRA on how politics may threaten the future of hunting in South Africa. https://www.nrahlf.org/articles/2017/8/18/south-african-economy-spells-peril-for-wildlife/
    I would be interested in your thoughts.


    South African Economy Spells Peril for Wildlife

    [​IMG]

    In our seven-billion-person world, the preservation of wildlife is inexorably linked to the economic conditions on the ground. Today in Africa, a growing political crisis and resulting economic crash will lead to the tragic and unnecessary destruction of wildlife in one of the world’s great hunting countries: South Africa.

    We have seen it before—an unpopular president driving an economy into recession, seeking to deflect attention from his failed leadership by advocating the “redistribution” of farmland to a gullible electorate, creating a scenario where habitat is destroyed, wildlife is consumed, and a once thriving country is relegated to the roll of economic failed states. It is a familiar tale in Africa, but this is not Zimbabwe circa 2002. South Africa, the economic superpower of the continent and bastion of wildlife conservation, is on the brink of going the way of Zimbabwe some two decades ago, assuring the destruction of both its economy and abundant wildlife.

    Historically, many of Africa’s darkest chapters have been the result of a failure of leadership, and South African president Jacob Zuma fits the mold. He deals with perpetual charges of corruption. The High Court of South Africa ruled he violated the Constitution by failing to repay the treasury for some $16 million of improvements to his private home. He survived an impeachment vote in Parliament and was tried and acquitted of raping a babysitter. And then there is the South African economy.

    South Africa’s economy is contracting even as most of the rest of the worlds’ economies grow. The country’s debt rating was lowered to non-investment grade, while the South African rand was the world’s second most volatile currency in 2016. Unemployment stands at a 14-year high of 27.7 percent. South Africa is the continent’s most developed and industrialized nation, but the uncertainty created by the scandal-laden Zuma administration has kept investors on the sidelines as the economy teeters on the verge of free-fall.

    “And why should any this matter to me” you might ask? If you care about conserving wildlife it matters, as South Africa’s circumstance is eerily similar to that of Zimbabwe in the early 2000s.

    With an economy in disarray and an upcoming bid for re-election, Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe made “land reform” his primary issue. For several years before, Zimbabwe had a program of purchasing farmer’s land and, in theory, giving small parcels to the poor. And though most of the better farms wound up in the hands of the political elite, the displaced farmers were at least compensated for their losses. The election of 2002 changed all that.

    Mugabe’s new “land reform” policy worked in much the same way as the old policy, but without compensation for the farmers. Landowners were threatened, intimidated, often physically assaulted, and sometimes murdered by the so called “war vets” who parceled the land and made it their own. The result: Zimbabwe went from the most productive agricultural country on the continent, the “breadbasket” of Africa as it were, to a food-debtor nation with unimaginable inflation, chronic shortages and a population with more than 40 percent classified as malnourished. And as you might imagine, hungry masses are bad news for wildlife.

    Today, Zimbabwe’s wildlife is but a shadow of its former greatness. Yes, there are still areas where game abounds, but they are increasingly rare. Rampant poaching, enough snares to reach to the moon and back, and competition with wildlife for a village’s small patch of maize or pasture has pitted man against beast in a fight for survival. And in this competition, wildlife eventually, inevitably loses. It has happened in Zimbabwe. It will happen in South Africa.

    "If the leaders of Africa’s most developed nation choose to sacrifice their wildlife for the sake of political expediency, I fear the first major domino will have fallen and there will be little chance to preserve species on the rest of the continent."

    Since 1991 when the Game Theft Act codified private ownership of wildlife in South Africa, both game ranches and game populations have skyrocketed. More than 10,000 game ranching operations occupy 20 percent of the marginal agricultural land in the country, which has transformed poor domestic pasture land into quality habitat for wild species. More than 20 million head of wild game are now in private hands, four times the number in all of South Africa’s National and Provincial parks combined. Privatization of wildlife has created a monetary value in game species and thus, an incentive for landowners to breed and protect them. But giving 10,000 South African farms to 50,000,000 of the nation’s poor will have a decidedly more negative outcome for wildlife.

    When large hunting lands are subdivided into small farm plots, wildlife ceases to have a monetary value. The flow of tourist hunters and their dollars quickly will dry up. Without revenue from hunting, wildlife will become a liability to the new owners, as animals compete with man for the bounty of the farmer’s produce. Coupled with the additional incentive that killing nuisance animals also makes for a tasty addition to the family cook pot, most of South Africa’s wildlife will vanish within months. Economies of scale, institutional knowledge and rural jobs will be lost. A $1-billion-dollar industry will collapse. Habitat will be marginalized by the reintroduction of sheep and goats. And importantly, thousands of South Africans—some whose families have worked the same farm since the 1700s—will have their land taken away without compensation. And though the pain and loss pales in comparison to the African calamity, this is an American tragedy as well.

    Though proportionately few American hunters travel to Africa, the 10,000 or so tourist hunters that financed South Africa’s wildlife conservation will lose one of the great hunting grounds on Earth. Not because of embargo or travel restrictions. Not because of war or pestilence. South Africa’s abundant wildlife will cease to exist because of failed leadership and political slight-of-hand. This wanton waste of wildlife resources is reason enough to raise a voice to power and say “Enough,” but there is more.

    For the last 25 years, South Africa has been the shining beacon of sustainable-use wildlife conservation. The black wildebeest, the bontebok and white rhino are just some of the species that have returned from the brink of extinction, in no small part due to the dollars generated by sustainable-use hunting. South Africa is a great story of conservation, a convincing elevator pitch for the non-hunter detailing what is right about hunting today. In this perception-is-reality world, South Africa’s wildlife renaissance has been one of the great conservation success stories of our time—proof that hunting is of tangible value to the 7 billion inhabitants of planet Earth. But will this success matter tomorrow?

    South Africa is at a crossroads. If the leaders of Africa’s most developed nation choose to sacrifice their wildlife for the sake of political expediency, I fear the first major domino will have fallen and there will be little chance to preserve species on the rest of the continent. If it happens, it is conceivable that in our lifetime, most if not all hunting in Africa will cease; so too will the hunters dollars that give wildlife its monetary value. Competing with a growing African population of 1.2 billion, the continent’s wildlife does not stand a chance.

    No wildlife in Africa? It would be a tragedy of Biblical proportions.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 12, 2017
    ack, sgt_zim, Eeleel and 11 others like this.

  2. Vanguard2279

    Vanguard2279 SILVER SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    Terrifying , but a very possible end result. Great article.
     

  3. Philip Glass

    Philip Glass LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Elite

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    Steve very well done. Africa has always had problems and will continue into the future. These are scary problems though!
    Philip
     

  4. cpr0312

    cpr0312 AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Steve,

    Thanks for sharing this article with us. Very well written as always
     
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  5. CAustin

    CAustin AH ENABLER BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    I hope SA doesn't go that way.
     
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  6. Pheroze

    Pheroze AH ENABLER BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Thanks for sharing. It's really great that writers like you are bringing the issues in South Africa to the American public. It is important for hunters to be informed. But, I personally think there are notable differences between South Africa and Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Significantly, Mugabe came up on a tide of animus and used that to overturn land ownership, while Mandela diffused that animus and, in a sense, protected the landowner from the mob.

    The ANC did not use those divisive racist tactics like Mugabe did when the issues were red hot, and so they don't have a lot of momentum for it now. In a sense, Mandela diffused that type of social upheaval. Also, the success of the DA in recent elections cannot be overlooked. That is good for South Africa, and her racial minorities.

    My betting is the ANC is trying to poach votes from the EFF to keep power, but they don't have the momentum to create new converts to their racist ideology. For them it's a numbers game. Poverty will always create opportunities for revolutionary rhetoric, so that gives the EFF some power, and the ANC wants some of it. Thats how they will hedge against recent electoral setbacks. But if we are looking at recent elections, it would seem South Africans know what they have to do to move their country forward.

    The bigger threat is that no one gives two bits for hunting unless they have some connection to the industry, so they are passive observers of changes to wildlife laws; thats how Botswana happens. However, I imagine, if the people of South Africa know hunting pays the bills, and if their leaders don't have interests in photo-tourism outfits, then there will be a political will to preserve it.
     
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  7. lcq

    lcq AH Elite

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    ding ding ding we have a winner. absolutely spot on
     

  8. Hogpatrol

    Hogpatrol SILVER SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Interesting article but I believe the jury is still out. What happened in Zimbabwe is probably a good thing and that it's adjacent to SA. It's a blinding example of what happens when political expediency overrules common sense.
     

  9. lcq

    lcq AH Elite

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    too true but common sense isn't that common anymore
     
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  10. MAdcox

    MAdcox GOLD SUPPORTER AH Enthusiast

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    Well written, scary stuff. Reading old stuff from the closing of Kenya, a lot of people thought that would be the end of hunting in Africa then too. Hopefully this will not go the way of Zimbabwe or Botswana. But when corrupt, inept, power hungry politicians are in charge anything can happen.
     
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  11. lcq

    lcq AH Elite

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    [QUOTE But when corrupt, inept, power hungry politicians are in charge anything can happen.[/QUOTE]


    Case in point just look north to Canada
     

  12. Dr Ray

    Dr Ray AH Elite

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    This will be a monumental catastrophe.
    If things look like they are becoming violent ect I will not safari there. I think others will do the same.
     
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  13. MartyJ

    MartyJ AH Veteran

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    Mr. Zuma has been dancing around in his Zulu ceremonial garb spouting anti white banter. He has stated that he wants to give the land to the blacks, kicking out the whites.
    History will repeat itself again. Zimbabwe ( Rhodesia) was once the bread basket of southern Africa. Now, well, we don't even have to address it. Worthless money, a nothing economy. Crops are of individual family units.
    And this is what South Africa aspires too ?
     

  14. enysse

    enysse AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    I have thought its a possibility, for some reason the people at the bottom usually want the unattainable without paying for it. I see it every day in the USA....something for nothing. Entitled without earning it.
     

  15. MAdcox

    MAdcox GOLD SUPPORTER AH Enthusiast

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    Eventually the people that work for a living are outnumbered by those who vote for a living. (Not mine, don't know who said it originally)
     

  16. wesheltonj

    wesheltonj AH Elite

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    I suggest that you look at the Western Cape, where the DA is in Control. The rest of the Country see how well the Western Cape is doing and thus the ANC problem to maintain power. Tell the poor masses what they want to hear to get votes and keep power and thus keep the money flowing into Switzerland.
     

  17. Wheels

    Wheels AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Nice article Steve. Thanks
     

  18. lcq

    lcq AH Elite

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    spot on
     

  19. enysse

    enysse AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    And because they didn't rightfully earn it, they don't take care of it properly. They just abuse and throw it away looking for something else to fill the void.
     
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  20. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    Sad.
    Thanks for sharing Steve. None of my kids, grandkids, nor great grandkids seem to show any interest in hunting nor fishing. I guess I haven't done well promoting it to them. Unfortunately this will result as part of my shortcoming in teaching the next generations about the outdoors experience.
    Greed is obviously the primary issue, but education would help.
     

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