Matobo National Park has reportedly hiked penalties for villagers who allow their livestock to stray into the park.
Parks authorities increased fines from ZWL$6 to ZWL$50 per day for each animal which encroaches into its boundary.
This comes at a time when the country is experiencing another drought season due to poor rainfalls.
In Matabeleland, over a thousand cattle and donkeys in the region died last year due to water shortages and depleted pastures.
In an interview with CITE, Thabo Dube a villager appealed to the park authorities to waiver the hefty fines and that their livestock be allowed to graze within the park boundaries.
“We received very poor rains last year and as such we cannot feed our livestock as grass shortages have hit our area so letting graze within the park is the only way they will survive the drought because there is abundant grass,” said Dube.
Dube added that the villagers would not be able to afford to pay the fines if their livestock were caught straying.
Another villager Abigail Masuku appealed to the park authorities to allocate them a portion of the park for grazing purposes.
“We are not asking for much all we need is for the national park to cede some of its lands to us so that our cattle can graze and survive the dry season as it is fast encroaching without us having to pay the proposed fines,” said Masuku.
“The ZWL$50 is too much for us since we are under lockdown and we do not have tourists coming into the park who used to buy our products when they came to visit which is how we made our revenue but as for now everything is on standstill.”
Contacted for comment, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) regional manager Kwanele Manungo said while she was not aware of the hike in fines the park has put in place measures to assist villagers to cope with the drought situation.
“There are measures that we are putting in place, at the moment we are harvesting hay which will be shared with the community so that they can feed their livestock,” said Manungo.
She added that before the imposed lockdown took effect they had started drilling boreholes to provide villagers with water sources for their livestock as well as a dip tank.
“Before the imposed lockdown we had started drilling boreholes and we managed to drill one in Sapu so that cattle can access water outside the park. We are also working on rehabilitating a borehole so that we can assist the community and they can also have a nearby dip tank,” she told CITE.