New faces at the Zimbabwe National SPCA

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2005:

HARARE–If anything good for animals comes out of the last
years of the Robert Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, it may be the
Africanization of the Zimbabwe National SPCA.
Often seen by Zimbabweans of African descent as a relic of
colonialism, the ZN/SPCA has become emblematic of the battered hopes
of many Afro-Zimbabweans who still aspire to a peaceful and
productive society that shares norms and values with the developed
Mugabe, 81, on April 1, 2005 strengthened his grasp and
that of his henchmen on control of what remains of the faltering
Zimbabwean government after 25 years of increasingly corrupt misrule
by claiming a two-thirds majority in Parliamentary elections.
Critics of the regime both within Zimbabwe and abroad challenged the
authenticity of the results.
Whether or not the balloting was rigged, supporters of
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party again tortured animals to terrorize opponents
before the election, as they often have before. In Makoni, for
example, near Mutare, Mugabe backers burned an opposition leader’s
henhouse, killing 14 birds.
“No arrests have been made but police and the ZN/SPCA
continue to make enquiries,” said ZN/SPCA national chair Bernice
Robertson Dyer.

ZANU-PF supporters also bought votes–and allegedly built
cash reserves against when the government falls–by poaching
Zimbabwe’s fast-diminishing wildlife.
Five years after Mugabe first bought support for his
faltering government by encouraging supporters to occupy farms owned
by people of European and Asian descent, Zimbabwean agricultural
production has fallen far below food self-sufficiency, but Mugabe
has refused international food aid, seeking to starve opponents into
Supposedly to help feed hungry Zimbabweans, the Mugabe
government in late 2004 began slaughtering wildlife in Hwange
National Park.
“Operation Nyama, or ‘Operation Meat,’ is ostensibly a
campaign to feed starving villagers in northern Matabeleland,” wrote
Christopher Munnion of the London Daily Telegraph on March 23, 2005.
The killing was to have ended in December 2004, Munnion
noted, but Zimbabwean Conservation Task Force chair Johnny Rodrigues
said he received a report at the beginning of March “from a group of
disgusted American tourists. They saw a national parks truck which
had broken down inside Hwange and was fully loaded with dead impala
and buffalo. An attempt had been made to conceal the dead animals,
but the Americans could easily see what was in the truck.”
Rodrigues said an Aust-ralian couple also saw a government
truck full of wildlife carcasses in Hwange, and cut short their
visit due to hearing around-the-clock gunfire.
“If the aim was to feed the people, it is strange that most
of the elephant bulls that are being shot have 60-to-70-pound tusks
and are in their prime,” added Rodrigues. “Old bulls with broken
tusks are not targeted.”


“It is a time of evolution and change for our Society,”
admitted Dyer in a March 25 e-mail, “as we grapple with the
worsening situation and the continuing exodus of supporters and
volunteers. Recent estimates put the dwindling Anglo population at a
mere 12,000,” with much reduced ability to donate.
“From 15 SPCA chapters in 2002, we are down to nine,” Dyer
continued. “We were devastated by Meryl Harrison’s decision to leave
at the end of 2004,” when Harrison wrote to friends that she hoped
to emigrate to England, after several years of stress-related health
problems. Harrison, formerly manager of the Bulawayo Branch SPCA,
in August 2000 became national coordinator of the ZN/SPCA,
personally directing the ZN/SPCA response to cruelty by land invaders.
The parting was not wholly amicable. Harrison wrote that she
resigned after conflicting with Dyer over the purchase and renovation
of a farmhouse near Harare as a new large animal rescue facility and
head office, while property prices are at their lowest ebb since
Mugabe took power. Harrison favored instead increasing the ZN/SPCA
investment in mobile clinics and animal care supplies. Imported
pharmaceuticals are reportedly now prohibitively expensive, due to
the collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar.
Dyer also noted the April 2005 exodus to England of ZN/-SPCA
horse rescue volunteers Claire and Mark Evans. “Sue Calasse and
April and Angus Thompson in Mashonaland and Claire Einhorn in
Matabeleland will continue with this important work,” Dyer said,
also introducing “new Matabeleland regional inspector Glynis
Vaughan,” and a new head office staff member, Roslyn Varkevisser,”
whose names reflect the traditional ZN/SPCA Anglo/Afrikans support
The recent stars of the team, however, include Simon
Chikadaya, who “continues to attend to all reports in the
Mashonaland area,” Dyer recounted. He is “ably assisted by the
gentle and hardworking Mathias Tengaruwa,” Dyer continued, “who has
made a name for himself” conducting rural clinics and humane
education programs.
Succeeding Harrison as perhaps the most visible face of the
ZN/SPCA in the field is John Chikomo, who “continues his excellent
work in Masvingo Province,” Dyer said. “John is now providing
outreach to Mashava and Zvishavane, which no longer have SPCA
committees, and Chiredzi, which no longer has an inspector, and he
now includes Beitbridge in his patrols. A serious problem has
developed along the Beitbridge roads to Bulawayo and Masvingo,”
Dyer added. “Nearly all of the fencing along 600 kilometers of road
has been removed, and donkeys and cows are killed daily.” Chikomo
is often called to euthanize the injured animals.
“A sinister aspect of the disappearing fences,” Dyer
reminded, “is that the wire is used to produce snares. In a single
sweep of one conservancy [overrun by land invaders], hundreds of
snares were recovered.”
Chikomo won 12 cruelty convictions in the first three months
of 2005, Dyer said–a substantial achievement anywhere, more so in
a nation notorious for failing law and order. His victories included
two closures of slaughterhouses for not properly stunning animals,
the conviction of a farm cooperative in Bakita for allowing 32 pigs
to suffer from starvation and mange, and the conviction of the
warden at Kyle National Park for allowing four horses to starve.

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