Official ceremonies, by their very nature tend to be dull. The KAZA signing ceremony in Victoria Falls fitted the bill perfectly. But the signing was done, and it is another massive step forward for the latest and largest Transfrontier Conservancy Area (TCA) in Africa.
Peace Parks Foundation was set up in 1998 to facilitate the formation of Transfrontier parks. Since then, it has helped with two successful agreements forming |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, which links South Africa and Namibia; also Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which links South Africa and Botswana.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, one of the founders of Peace Parks: “I know of no political movement, no philosophy, no ideology, which does not agree with the peace parks concept as we see it going into fruition today. It is a concept that can be embraced by all. In a world beset by conflicts and division, peace is one of the cornerstones of the future. Peace parks are a building block in this process, not only in our region, but potentially in the entire world.”
Peace Parks are working on agreements for the formation of several other parks/conservancies, the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) being their most ambitious. KAZA requires agreement between the five governments of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibi,a and Angola and covers an area of more than 280,000 square kilometers. The memorandum of understanding between all five governments was signed in 2006. The Zambian Integrated Development Plan (IDP) was signed in June 2008, and now the Zimbabwe IDP has also been signed.
The day of February 19, 2010, which marked the signing by the Zimbabwe government, started at around 9:00 am with the arrival of the VIPs at Dabula Jetty Site, Victoria Falls Town. It was a perfect spot for such a meeting, on the banks of the Zambezi River, which forms one of the lifelines to the KAZA Conservation Area. The tables and chairs were arranged under a huge billowy white awning, which let in light, kept off any rain, and shaded us from the sun. Actually we had neither rain nor sun, but one has to plan for these eventualities at this time of year.
The speeches started after the singing of the National Anthem, and it did seem to me as if they would never stop. We had speeches from the mayor, the governor, the DG of National Parks, a chief, and many more, finally ending up with comrade Francis Nhema, the minister of the environment.
Fortunately the speeches in Victoria Falls were interspersed with the MC, who was very amusing, and some entertainment from local entertainment troupes. The best troupe came from Dete, near Hwange National Park, and had us all in giggles as they mimicked animals.
At around 12:00 noon, the IDP was signed by the minister of environment, DG of Parks, and CEO of Peace Parks.
It really was a very special day and marks another milestone towards the reality of KAZA.