January 24, 2018
By Joe Lihundi, Tranquility News reporter, Arusha
All is not well with players in the Tanzania’s consumptive tourism following new hunting guidelines the government has recently issued upsetting them, saying the directives violate the very laws of the land regulating the industry.
They fear their investments, which were planned on five-year basis, will suffer major financial losses as a result of the new directives denying them recovery time.
“Investments are made basing on the confidence that laws and regulations in place will protect both the government and investors,” the hunting players lament in their statement signed by Ms Lathifa Sykes, the CEO of two consumptive tourism umbrella outfits in the country.
The hunting tourism players appeal to the government to maintain and let investors finish the five-year tenure approved and signed by the previous minister, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, in January 2017.
Although they commend the incumbent minister for his intention to address hiccups inhibiting growth of the industry, they fear the government is rushing into something that needs not to be rushed.
Late in October last year, the newly appointed Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Dr Hamis Kigwangalla, revoked all hunting permits the ministry issued in January last year, pending preparation for a new auctioneer system.
He gave officials in his docket a two-month ultimatum to accomplish setting up the new system he believes will be transparent enough to curtail all corruption loopholes reported in the previous arrangement.
Dr Kigwangalla had also banned hunting blocks at Loliondo Game Controlled Area, belonging to the United Arab Emirates’ royal family, and at Lake Natron, pending delivery of everlasting solutions for conflicts pitting investors and surrounding pastoralist communities.
The minister’s move came amid calls for the country to do away with consumptive tourism altogether, contending that the practice partly contributes to the decline of wildlife animals, as some of them were captured and exported alive.
But upon expiry of the ultimatum last month, Dr Kigwangalla issued letters to all 47 tourist hunting operators in the country, informing them that he had extended the 2013-2917 tenure of their blocks for two years.
The minister says in his letter that the move, which comes just ahead of the big hunting conventions in the US and other Conventions in Europe between now and March 2018, aims at paving way for a smooth transition of the new modality of hunting blocks allocation system.
This means that all the 47 hunting blocks so far allocated will be auctioned in July 2019, while 61 unallocated ones are scheduled to be up for grab through the new system in July this year.
“This gesture gives some reprieve to the Tanzania hunting operators to participate in the US Safari Club International (SCI) in Las Vegas and Dallas Safari Club (DSC) in Dallas) which started on January 4, 2018,” the hunting tourism players admit in their statement.
The Tanzania Hunting Operators Association (Tahoa) and the Tanzania Professional Hunters Association (TPHA), however, argue saying the cancellation of the concessions were unfair to their businesses.
The ministerial extension of the tenure of concessions is not stipulated in the Tanzania 2009 Wildlife Conservation Act No. 5. “Such a change will require legislative amendments to the current law by the legislature,” they explain.
Going by the law, the minister is not entitled to alter or revoke a permit once a hunting block is allocated, but he can cancel it in case conditions of the license stipulated in Section 38(12) have been violated, they stress.
They caution that if unchecked, the government’s stance will drastically impair their rights and nudge the governance of the industry into disarray, as its viability depends on prior planning with stable and predictable legal framework in place.
“The cancellation of the hunting concessions, roughly a year after they were renewed, does not only attest to maladministration of the industry, but is also likely to erode the confidence of the stakeholders in the industry,” they explain in their rejoinder seen by The Tranquility News late recently.
Besides adding unnecessary costs to the hunting permits holders in taking part in the auction prematurely, the reduction of the tenure of their concessions also damages their goodwill and business reputation.
“It is important that legislative changes are introduced after deliberations involving the stakeholders, and not with post-haste celerity and contrary to the law,” they say, as they implore the minister to consider changing his stance for the sake of wider interests of the industry.
“We still believe there is a whole raft of options available to the minister which will ensure the matter is resolved without injuring the welfare of the stakeholders,” the statement reads.
Dr Kigwangalla granted tourism players an audience in Dodoma on December 28, last year, but the meeting concluded with the government’s firm statement, vowing that “come rain or high waters, the hunting block allocation system shall be changed from administrative to the auctioneer one,”.