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Archive for the ‘Trip V: Zimbabwe (Sept., 2008)’ Category

Zimbabwe currently has the largest inflation in the world, more than 2,200,000% (as of July 15, 2008). Ten years ago, the year of my first safari, to Zimbabwe, you could have bought 12 new cars there for what it now costs to buy a loaf of bread.

The last election (end of June, 2008) is widely considered invalid by the world because of violence sanctioned by the incumbent president, Robert Mugabe; the violence and pressure on the political opposition’s members, the Movement for Democratic Change, forced their candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, to drop out less than a week before the run-off. Mugabe ran unopposed and, surprise, won in a landslide.

The U.S. was trying to impose sanctions on Mugabe and his closest officials, but the proposal was vetoed by Russia and China. I’m kind of doubting the U.S. is Mugabe’s favorite country right now. Good thing he only controls the police, the military, and basically anyone with guns in my destination country.

There have been deaths and jailings of those opposing Mugabe, many recently in the recent pre-election time. And many people also have disappeared.

Mugabe’s take-over of the white-owned farms in Zimbabwe has proved disastrous. In a few short years, Zimbabwe had gone from being called Africa’s breadbasket to an importer of food. What’s more, many farmers were killed or displaced or put out of jobs. Many of these victims were black farm workers. And many of the farms simply went into the hands of Mugabe’s friends, relatives, generals, and others who knew nothing about farming.

So, uh, why go there?

Many people, understandably, are choosing to safari in other countries, even if they had already booked Zimbabwe safaris. But I am sticking with my Zimbabwe plans. There are three reasons for this.

First, Zimbabwe features the most knowledgable, most client-friendly guides I’ve met in four trips. And Zimbabwe’s wildlife is phenomenal and not swamped by too many tourists (even when the political scene is calm).

Second, my travel company talks daily to people on the ground (in the camps) in Zimbabwe. There have been no incidents in the camps, in the parks, or involving tourists. If anything remotely dangerous rears its head, they will immediately change my travel plans to another country.

Third, and most important, because fewer tourists are going to Zimbabwe, the parks are suffering. The people and animals who depend on tourism dollars are losing out. They need my support. Also, the less the parks are profitable as parks, the less incentive Zimbabwe has to protect them from farming and poaching.

Yes, some of my dollars will go to Mugabe, but I have to believe most will go to the parks, their employees, and the animals.

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