Newly appointed Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Hamis Kigwangalla has hit the ground running in trying to deliver his mandate. In the course, he has raised hope and contreversy in equal measure.
Being his first appointment to a full ministerial post, Dr Kikgwangalla may be out to impress on his record but he will have to contend with the jinx of his predecessors who were hounded out of the ministry as fast as they were appointed.
In an interview DANIEL MJEMA, the minister shared his views on the first challenge that he faced as he settles on the hot seat. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Question: You were in the ministry of health as an assistant minister and today you are a full cabinet minister, what difference have you encountered so far?
Answer: The big difference between the two ministries is that in the ministry of health we were mostly providing services to people and formulating policies and enforcing various laws. However, this new ministry seems to be more business oriented.
Despite being under the central government, this ministry has been raking in earnings while where I was we were receiving funds from the government to provide helth services to people. The ministry of health largely deals with local and foreign stakeholders in serving people.
Here, I reckon there is much more and bigger business interests that cut across many groups with varied business interests.
What kind of interest groups are you talking about
When you talk about tourism, it means you talk about people’s businesses. You talk about hoteliers, you talk about game hunters, and you talk about transporters, tourists agents and many other groups of this nature. Additionally, this ministry deals with investors who do not serve a person or the public for free as the ministry of health does.
What challenges do you anticipate in your new docket
There is actually a lot of confusion and antagonism going on because everyone is fighting for his or her own interests. Fore example if you make changes in levies due to public interest, a dispute must arise. Disputes are the norm it would appear in whatever decisions are to be made in the docket. If you take a decision about policy, a dispute will occur. If you make changes in law, a dispute will occur. Whatever you do expect a dispute.
But you must know that this ministry has the obligation of protecting the nation’s resources. A big part of this protection has a law enacted since the era of the British colonialists. For example, all the conservation areas of the nation were started in 1959.
The total number of these game control areas is 42 and they were established through the law enacted in 1951. So, you can see the game control areas were started through the law enacted in the 50s and therefore the need of areas for livestock grazing were very few as the science of that time is different from the current one.
The differences over the 50 years have caused disputes among various groups including between conservationists and residents of localities surrounding game reserves. More human settlements have cropped up and the number of livestock is increasing by the day yet the land has remained the same.
You were quoted as saying that you have allowed livestock to graze in reserve areas and your statement sparked a lot of criticism against you on social media. What do you say about this
I have never made such a statement. It is a total lie and a roumour spread vigorously by groups with various interests in the one area of Loliondo which has a dispute lasting for more than 26 years. The law stipulates that the area of Loliondo with 4,000 square kilometers would be turned into a game controlled area bordering the Serengeti National Park.
When the Serengeti National Park was started in 1959, a heated debate occurred between the rulers of that time and local people, who were Maasai living in the area called Moru within the Serengeti. Maasai elders, 12 in number, agreed with the colonial government that they would move from the Serengeti to the game controlled area. The 1951 law allowed human activities to be carried out in the game controlled area. This game controlled area is very important to the Serengeti because of the presence of over 67 per cent of water sources.
The colonial law allowed co-existence. But things have changed today. From 1992 there have been disputes after investors from the United Arab Emirates were granted a hunting permit in the game controlled area of Loliondo
What dispute did the permit cause and why is it so protracted
This permit for hunting in the game controlled area of Loliondo with 4000 square kilometers was issued in 1994 and is renewed after every five years. It caused a scandal called the ‘Loliondo Gate.’
Two weeks before my appointment, I heard about the violation of human rights that occurred in that area including houses of residents being torched and women being raped. I said no. So, I have said as the minister I will not promote the dispute further as it only serves to entrench hatred of the people we seek to serve against their government.
So, I said I must learn from this dispute and what was happening there. I went there and I did not take any decision about the solution to the dispute because we are awaiting a decision of the Prime Minister’s committee appointed to look into the matter and recommend the way forward.
However, I asked myself what if my boss, the PM, demands an explanation from me as minister and I do not have it? In my view of the dispute, I looked around and realised there was something outside the mandate of the committee that needed my immediate attention. So, cognisant of the fact that we may look bogus infront of our leaders for not knowing what the dispute is all about, I took the decision that I believe will help in the meantime as we await the outcome of the PM’s team.
One is that the residents were forbidden from taking their livestock to the water sources to drink water. But those water sources are in the villages’ land and those villages have been established legally and we have not dissolved them according to the law.
I said this did not need to wait for the Prime Minister’s decision. Normal wisdom just tells you that these residents have the right to use the water until a new procedure of using water is established. I directed that district leaders should sit down and establish a procedure of allowing the livestock to drink water without affecting the environment.
Two, some livestock were seized on the villages’ land during an operation of establishing the buffer zone. It is not understood how the buffer zone was established because you extend an area on the land which is not yours and you do it by force. There should have been discussions and agreements with the residents.
I said you seized these livestock in the game controlled area of Loliondo and you have not seized them according to the law. So, get them (livestock) back to the residents and I suspended that operation. The animals seized within the Serengeti Nationa Park would be fined according to the law.