Tourism Minister Rodney Sikumba has told parliament that the government has not cancelled any legally signed hunting concessions, but has proposed and agreed to defer the signing ceremony of the hunting concession agreements to give it sufficient time to review the process.
In a Ministerial Statement in the National Assembly yesterday, Mr Sikumba said that this was done a few days after the 2021 General Election which ushered in the New leadership under President Hakainde Hichilema.
This follows a point of order raised by Lumezi Member of Parliament MUNIR ZULU who wanted to find out the status of purported cancelled hunting concessions by the Ministry of Tourism.
Early this month NAtional Assembly First Deputy Speaker Malungo Chisangano directed tourism minister Mr Sikumba to issue a ministerial statement over the cancellation of hunting concession agreements signed in 2020.
Rising on a matter of national importance in parliament, Lumezi Independent member of parliament Munir Zulu highlighted the negative implications the decision has brought on local communities and wildlife.
Zulu asked for an explanation from the government on such a decision.
“Thank you so very much, Madam Speaker. I’m raising this matter directed to the Minister of Tourism. Madam Speaker, I’m a massage career from the good people of Lumezi that the cancellation of the hunting concessions has posed a great threat to the people in Lumezi. The cancellation of the concessions – hunting concessions, that is – Madam Speaker, which was cancelled when the Attorney General had given a solid opinion, has been widely circulated in most of our tabloids,’’ said Zulu as he lifted copies of newspapers before the House.
“It is dated 2nd June where [it says] ‘Wildlife in GMA risks being depleted – Moomba community. Madam Speaker, I know one of the newspapers has Iris Kaingu on the front page, but the detail is in the papers. Madam Speaker, the paper for yesterday (Tuesday) ‘Hunting business saga could spell political trouble for HH’, it’s all talking about the cancelled hunting concessions. And for us in Lumezi, just like our brothers in Itezhitezhi, our brothers in Liuwa, our brothers in Chama, our brothers in Nyimba and sisters, those are our Black Mountains. That’s what benefits the local people. If this matter is not addressed, Madam Speaker, the animals will be on the loose like we have heard in Mulobezi where lions have gone hunting for the local people. Madam Speaker, with these submissions, permit me to lay these newspapers on the table for your further guidance. Thank you, Madam Speaker.’’
On May 13, 2022, Muhanga terminated the contract for Dr Simukonda who is believed to have advised him against ignoring legal advice from the Attorney General.
According to the Attorney General’s advice in a letter dated January 5, 2022 addressed to President Hakainde Hichilema on tender No. MTA/SP/001/2020, there was nothing illegal about the tender and that cancelling it would attract law suits against the government.
“Your Excellency, I find it pertinent to make an appointment with you and explain the legal implications relating to the subject matter. Your Excellency, prior to meeting you [I] wish to bring it to your attention through this letter that I received a letter from the Ministry of Tourism and Arts reference No. MTA/54/14/2 dated 15th December, 2021 in which the Ministry was seeking a legal opinion on the cancellation of Hunting Concession Agreements (hereinafter referred to as ‘HCAs’,” Kabesha wrote. “The circumstances that engendered the opinion is attributed to your directive to the Minister and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism to the effect that the execution of the HCAs must be halted and that the negotiated HCAs must be cancelled.”
He cited formalities which prescribe a genuine hunting concession agreement and advised that once they are met then the tender remains legal.
Citing case law, Kabesha advised against cancelling the agreements as that would attract legal suits on government and subsequent loss of income through compensations to the affected parties.
“Your Excellency, once all these formalities are met, the contract or contracts come into being. According to the Procuring Entity all these procedures were met which resulted in the HCAs being approved,” explained Kabesha. “In the case of National Drug Company Limited and Zambia Privatisation Agency v Mary Katongo, the Supreme Court held that: ‘It is trite law that once the parties have voluntarily and freely entered into a legal contract, they become bound to abide by the terms of the contract and that the role of the court is to give efficacy to the contract when one party has breached it by respecting, upholding and enforcing the contract.’ In view of the cited case and in the absence of cogent evidence of infringement of section 69 (1), it becomes legally unsustainable to terminate the HCAs. Any attempt to effect will undoubtedly lead to law suits against Government which is striving to resuscitate the economy of the country and at the same time creating an enabling environment for investment and respect of the law. I humbly render my advice.”
Specifically, the affected hunting concession agreements include the following:
- Musungwa and Shezongo Community Resources Board and JVZ Safaris Limited, relating to safari hunting rights in Nkala Hunting Block in Nkala game management area.
- Nabwalya Community Resources Board and Kuwama Safaris Limited, relating to Safari hunting rights in Nabwalya Hunting Block in Nabwalya Game Management Area.
- Malama and Kakumbi Community Resources Board and Kwalata Safaris Limited, relating to safari hunting rights in Lower Lupande Hunting Block in Lupande Game Management Area.
- Chikwa Community Resources Board and Mopani Safaris Limited, relating to safari hunting rights in Chikwa Hunting Block in East Musalangu Game Management Area.
Mulendema Community Resources Board, Chibuluma Community Resources Board, Kabulwebulwe Community Resource Boards and Nedzo Safaris Limited relating to safari hunting rights in Mumbwa West Hunting Block in Mumbwa West Game Management Area.
- Chifunda Community Resources Board and Kocango Safaris Limited relating to safari hunting rights in Chifunda Hunting Block in East Musalangu Game Management Area.
Several stakeholders, including good governance activist Brebner Changala, Socialist Party president Fred M’membe, acting PF president Given Lubinda, and State Counsel Sakwiba Sikota, have advised Muhanga against the cancellation, warning that government would pay heavily when bidders sue