Zimbabwe Notes 1990

24 April 1990

Well, here I am aboard the Trans-Karoo on my way home after 2 weeks away. I’ve been in Zimbabwe attending an AIESEC environmental conference in Harare on “Wildlife Management in Africa”. The conference was really worthwhile, although at times frustrating. Worthwhile because it brought together people from Zambia, Botswana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and SA.

Also, it made one more aware of the importance of (nay, the necessity of) conserving our environment and in particular “our” wildlife. But frustrating for me (and how!) because “conservation” seemed to involve treating wildlife as a commodity, as something which humanity “owns” and has the right to determine the destiny of. What am I talking about? I’m talking about wildlife managers (?) having the audacity to decide that the life of an elephant is worth $5000, or an impala $75 (these are the trophy fees for sporting hunters!). Even the idea of culling wildlife to me seems wrong. Indeed, the concept of “wildlife/environmental management” seems to me a contradiction in terms; an environment manages itself! Mankind’s interference is perhaps the heart of the problem … But don’t let my bitterness mislead you; the conference was a wonderful and invaluable experience.

It was really great to be back in the land of my birth – the climate, the vegetation, the type of people … It got me thinking actually: Why did I choose to be born and to spend my early childhood in that land? What were the factors which I needed to shape me for this life of mine? I didn’t come up with any clear answers (I didn’t expect to) but perhaps it has something to do with learning to appreciate nature (rather than a “big city” experience at an early age), learning to appreciate more “primitive” ways of living (and often more natural); also learning about the effects of war (something which had a direct effect on us as a family, not to mention the country as a whole); and who knows what else? It is a question which will now remain with me as I journey through life …

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Lessons from Africa’s Wild Frontiers

Lessons from Africa’s Wild Frontiers

Blog by Wayne Visser

Birthplace of blood diamonds

We start our journey around the world in Africa, in the country known today as Zimbabwe. This is the place where I was born and spent my childhood years. At that time, however, the country was still called Rhodesia – so named after the colonialist Cecil Rhodes in the late 1800s. Rhodes, an English-born explorer turned entrepreneur and business magnate, is the focus of my first story – a lesson in the abuse of corporate power.

In 1871, Rhodes joined the diamond rush and headed to Kimberley in South Africa. By 1889, he had formed an effective monopoly through a strategic partnership with the London-based Diamond Syndicate, which agreed to control the world supply of diamonds – around 90% at one point – and thereby maintain high prices. In the same year, Rhodes established the British South Africa Company, which was empowered under royal charter to trade with African tribal leaders, as well as to form banks; to own, manage, grant or distribute land; and to raise a police force.

In return, the company agreed to develop the territory it controlled, to respect existing African laws, to allow free trade within its territory and to respect all religions. Four years later, however, the very same company had recruited its own army and invaded tribal king Lobengula’s territory in what became known at the 1893 Matabele War. The troops and white settlers occupied the town and Bulawayo was declared a settlement under the rule of the British South Africa Company. Rhodes ordered that a new town be built on the ruins of Lobengula’s royal place.

For me, the lesson to learn from Rhodes and his British South Africa Company is clear: when companies have too much power—either political power or economic power – they will tend to abuse that power to enrich themselves. The fusion of private economic interest with public political sanction is the ultimate toxic recipe for corporate irresponsibility. We see it in all the classic cases of business crimes against society and the environment, whether it is through the regressive political lobbying of the oil industry in the United States (going all the way back to Rockefeller’s Standard Oil company), or the majority ownership of Shell by Nigeria’s former military dictatorship government.

Man versus wild

My second story from Zimbabwe is about how greed and exploitation is decimating wildlife on the planet. I have a childhood memory of visiting Hwange National Park (then called Wankie), which is

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Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2013) Lessons from Africa’s Wild Frontiers, Wayne Visser Blog Series, 26 June 2013.

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