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CITES: Is Zim returning to the state of nature?

Zimbabwe is considering pulling out of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) to fully benefit from its conservation of natural resources after the just ended 18th meeting of the Conference of the parties to CITES in Geneva this week rejected a proposal by SADC countries to open trade to clear existing stockpiles of ivory. Zimbabwe is sitting on US$600 million worth of stock is battling a floundering economy.

Before this Conference debate on whether or not a ban on ban on ivory trade should be lifted intensified as the issue became a talking point for the international political economy.

Just last month, Botswana was lobbying Kenya in an effort to convince the East African country to change its position and support ivory trade at the CITES. Kenya position to back western powers has divided opinion on the advantages and disadvantages of global public goods. The question here would be “Why should Zimbabwe suffer from the wrongs of others public goods?”

While President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s position, to some extent is justifiable, it is the aftermath that requires assessment. On face value the issue of classifying elephants as African elephants appears ludicrous for hardliners who posit that cases of human-wildlife conflict may be eased by the trading of ivory. In this school of thought some argue that Zimbabwe, which is involved in conservation work, should benefit from its natural resources.

Zimbabwe’s Marxist stance of revolting against the CITES may lead to two things---force reforms or the country may return to the state of nature. It is the latter which has dire consequences. Zimbabwe’s allies--China and other eastern nations are in CITES, so who will Zimbabwe turn to when she pulls out.

It is our view that through fragmentation of CITES, Zimbabwe, should build for a strong case on its position to open ivory trades instead of pulling out of CITES. In driving this agenda, institutional inertia will however emerge as one of the biggest challenges.

In 2003, Mnangagwa’s predecessor, Robert Mugabe, took an almost similar decision when he pulled out of the Commonwealth after accusing then Secretary General Don McKinnon and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair of taking a harsh foreign policy stance on Zimbabwe. The consequences of this hardline position have been documented. Now Mnangagwa is making frantic efforts to be readmitted into Commonwealth.

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