Dar es Salaam. A tug-of-war pitting players in Tanzania’s consumptive tourism and the government has taken a new twist, with professional hunters now accusing the authorities of negating the rule of law.
Reacting to allegations made by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla, against members of the Tanzania Professional Hunters Association (TPHA) the association’s leaders said in a statement yesterday that the remarks were “the culmination of disrespect for natural justice.”
The professional hunters’ umbrella organisation wondered in its statement whether or not the press conference that was held by the minister was meant as a summons for its members to report to Dodoma for interrogation.
TPHA is not against such an inquiry targeting its members, but it expected to see the Police, the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) and other relevant authorities adhere to due processes so as to justify the allegations before the names of the suspects were revealed in public.
“The government operates through bona fide documents, but we haven’t received any summons – besides seeing media reports,” the professional hunters lament in a joint statement signed by the TPHA chief executive, Ms Latifah Sykes.
In a press conference in Dodoma last Thursday, Dr Kigwangalla accused several hunting companies, as well as some TPHA members, of several grave acts of misconduct – some of which are tantamount to economic sabotage.
“Such accusations will be virally and uncritically replicated throughout the world – and, thus, occasion lasting prejudice against the parties concerned without being heard,” the TPHA statement reads in part.
TPHA says the minister’s “injudicious” remarks are bound to adversely tilt the process of investigation against the suspects at whom he has so melodramatically pointed his finger. Under those circumstances: can any inquiry processes into the allegations be fair and just at all? They wondered somewhat loudly.
TPHA fears that, apart from the minister virtually condemning the association’s members unheard – and, thereby trampling underfoot their rights to due processes – the minister’s “negative” remarks will also seriously taint the image of the country’s hunting industry in general.
TPHA links the minister’s “injurious” remarks with his attempt to cancel validly-granted hunting blocks to operators, claiming that this is a dangerous precedent that is neither based on law nor is it in the best interests of the tourism industry in particular, and the country’s economy at large.
Late in October last year, Dr Kigwangalla revoked all hunting block permits which the ministry had issued in January last year, under his predecessor, Prof Jumanne Maghembe.
In the event, the new minister, Dr Kigwangalla, plans to issue new permits on a public auctioneering basis.
Dr Kigwangalla 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 the way for a smooth transition of a new modality of hunting blocks allocation system.
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 2013-2017 tenure of their blocks for two years.