February 5, 2018
By Joe Lihundi, Tranquility News reporter, Arusha
Tanzania government and professional hunters are no longer on the same page regarding radical changes the multi-billion dollar industry is going through, with the latter accusing the authorities of trampling down their rights.
The public and private sectors in the industry have been agreeing to disagree on a number of issues for four consecutive months now putting the consumptive industry in the crossfire.
Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Hamis Kigwangalla’s decision to revoke all hunting block permits validly granted to operators shortly after he was appointed to the docket in October last year triggered the hullabaloo.
He gave officials in the ministry a two-month ultimatum to accomplish setting up a new auctioneering system he believes will be transparent enough to curtail all corruption loopholes and misconducts reported in the previous arrangement.
But upon expiry of the ultimatum, Dr Kigwangalla issued letters to all 47 hunting operators in the country early last month, informing them that he had extended the 2013-2917 tenure of their blocks for two years.
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.
The Tanzania Hunting Operators Association (Tahoa) and the Tanzania Professional Hunters Association (TPHA), however, argued saying much as the extension of the tenure of concessions is not stipulated in the Tanzania 2009 Wildlife Conservation Act No. 5, it requires legislative amendments to the current law by the legislature.
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.
Dr Kigwangalla, in turn, accused officials of some hunting companies of several grave misconducts with some amounting to murder and economic sabotage, including elephants poaching.
The minister also implicated the suspects in the assassination of Wayne Lotter, 51, the anti-poaching activist from South Africa, who was mysteriously gunned down in Dar es Salaam in August last year.
He gave the Police Force seven days to arrest the suspects, lest he reported the matter to the Commander In-Chief of the Defence and Security Forces, President John Magufuli.
The minister’s latest remarks come at time when a number of professional hunters and hunting companies are taking part in international convention to market Tanzania as the potential destination for consumptive tourism.
Trophy hunting is currently a legal trade and the outgoing director of Wildlife Division, Prof Alexander Songorwa, goes on record as saying the industry fetched the country about $75 million between 2008 and 2011.
Latest data though are not readily available, reliable sources say, as a result of new fee rates imposed on hunting blocks and trophies, the industry approximately registered over $30 million last year.
TPHA is not against the inquiry targeting its members, but expected to see the Police, the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) and other relevant authorities adhere to due processes to justify the allegations before names of the suspects were revealed in public ,” – TPHA
Apparently aggrieved by allegations the minister made against its members at a press conference he addressed in Dodoma recently, TPHA says in its rejoinder that Dr Kigwangalla’s remarks are a culmination of disrespect to natural justice.
“TPHA is not against the inquiry targeting its members, but expected to see the Police, the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) and other relevant authorities adhere to due processes to justify the allegations before names of the suspects were revealed in public,” the professional hunters’ umbrella outfit says.
“The government operates through documents, but we haven’t received any summons besides the media reports,” laments the professional hunters in the statement signed by the TPHA chief executive officer, Ms Lathifah Sykes.
It adds: “Such accusations will be virally and uncritically replicated throughout the world and thus occasion lasting prejudice against the parties concerned without being heard.”
TPHA says the minister’s ‘injudicious’ remarks apparently will adversely tilt the process of investigation against the suspects he has loudly pointed the finger at, doubting if the inquiry process will at all be fair and just.
TPHA fears that apart from virtually condemning its members unheard and trampling on their right to due processes, the minister’s ‘negative’ remarks will also seriously taint the image of the country’s entire hunting industry.