Rescuers in Zimbabwe turf battle

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2000:

HARARE, Zimbabwe––All staff
and animals from the Masvingo Branch SPCA,
located 200 miles south of the Zimbabwean capital
of Harare, were evacuated on June 22 due
to a threat that it might be burned down in violence
surrounding the June 24-25 national election,
Zimbabwe National SPCA chair/secretary
Bryan Nel told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Polls indicated that the election––if
the results were not corrupted––might topple the
government of Robert Mugabe, president of
Zimbabwe since his troops ousted the apartheid
regime of the former Rhodesia in 1980.
Trying to hold power, Mugabe
encouraged landless followers to invade farms
owned by persons of European descent.

Nel called after weeks of allegations
and confusion over an appeal for help on behalf
of the dogs of fleeing farm families, issued on
April 29 by Elmine van der Merwe of the nokill
Wet Nose Animal Rescue Centre in
Pretoria, South Africa, published on page 4 of
the June edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Van der Merwe indicated that Wet
Nose planned to evacuate farmers’ abandoned
dogs from Zimbabwe; cited Meryl Harrison of
the Bulawayo Branch SPCA in Zimbabwe as
her source of particulars about four dogs who
were severely injured in an April 21 televised
attack by squatters on a farm house; and stated
that Wet Nose had “formed a fund to help the
Zimbabwe National SPCA” during the crisis.
South African news reports indicated
that Wet Nose was also forwarding aid to the
Zimbabwean humane societies from the
International Fund for Animal Welfare.
One day after the June A N I M A L
PEOPLE was mailed, a similar appeal arrived
from Bulawayo Branch SPCA director Meryl
Harrison, dated May 21. Harrison, however,
told ANIMAL PEOPLE that she had received
no help from Wet Nose. IFAW had sent aid
directly to the Bulawayo Branch SPCA. Two
weeks elapsed before anyone from Wet Nose
responded to an e-mailed inquiry.
“We can shed a great deal of light on
this,” Christine Kuch of the South African
National Council of SPCAs asserted, “but there
are legal impications to what we may say as
criminal charges have already been laid.”
Kuch did not elaborate about that, but
added, “We can say that this scheme seems to
be all hype and no action. We may also ask,
what dogs are they talking about? There has
been only one instance of dogs being attacked
on a farm in Zimbabwe,” Kuch said, although
Harrison told ANIMAL PEOPLE there had
been many attacks on livestock, “and those
dogs,” Kuch added, “are still in custody of the
Bulawayo Branch SPCA.”
Kuch said she and South African
National Council of SPCAs chief executive
Marcelle French had delivered to the Bulawayo
SPCA “24,000 units of vaccines, veterinary
supplies, and bicycles to help them cope with
the petrol shortage there, among other items,”
before ever becoming aware of Wet Nose.
On June 23, however, Nel confirmed
that on April 23––just two days after the televised
attack on the dogs but six days before van
der Merwe’s appeal––Wet Nose paid $16,000
Zimbabwean dollars into the Zimbabwe
National SPCA bank account.
Funds raised thereafter, Wet Nose
spokesperson Beatrice Wiltshire told ANIMAL
PEOPLE on June 26, were used in support of
an independent rescue of at least 32 dogs and
four cats. Wiltshire said that some of the animals
were reunited with their families, while 85
South African families applied to adopt the rest.
“Wet Nose did not hand over all the
money raised to the ZNSPCA in view of serious
allegations against the ZNSPCA regarding the
whereabouts of funds which were under the
control of the former chair, a certain Ian
Redman,” said Wiltshire.
Wet Nose and the SPCAs also differed
over whether sending abandoned farm
dogs to South Africa for possible rehoming
would be more humane than killing them in
Zimbabwe, evidently the preferred solution of
some ZNSPCA branches. ZNSPCA representatives
also argued that media attention to the
farmers’ flight and the plight of the abandoned
animals, raised by the Wet Nose fundraising
effort, might exascerbate the violence.
Said Nel, “Your readers are kindly
advised that should they wish to assist
Zimbabwe National SPCA animal rescue operations,
they may do so to Account #022 -20 –
579521- 01, Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe Ltd., 77
Park Lane Branch, Harare, Zimbabwe.”

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