Latest Lion Aid News
Friday 25th April 2014
There continues to be volatility in the Zambia Wildlife Authority with the dissolution of yet another Board of Directors and the dismissal of the Director General, allegedly for paying himself a large gratuity. Zambia’s wildlife is not well served by such instability and is likely to suffer continued declines without more dedicated leadership.
The former Minister of Tourism and Arts, Sylvia Masebo, fired senior ZAWA staff soon after she was appointed and put a new Board in place in January 2013. The changes came after allegations of widespread corruption within the organization and the accumulation of huge debts. She said “The PF government is very concerned at the state of affairs at ZAWA. The organisation is deep in debt … and cannot even pay its workers. We need to turn ZAWA around and I believe with this board, this objective can be realized”.
Minister Masebo also placed lion and leopard trophy hunting under a moratorium and cancelled allocations of a number of hunting concessions, citing irregular procedures in the tender process.
The new Board put in place by Masebo had as Chairman Guy Robinson, a commercial farmer with strong interests in trophy hunting – he is a member of the Zambia Professional Hunter’s Association and his son was past Chairman of the same. In a meeting with LionAid last year he told us the lion trophy hunting moratorium would be overturned in short order.
In subsequent developments, Minister Masebo was summoned to a legal tribunal for “exceeding” her powers by cancelling the hunting concession allocations. While the tribunal largely cleared her of any wrongdoing, she was subsequently dismissed by Zambian President Sata for “bringing his name into disrepute” by claiming she had his support for the sweeping changes implemented at ZAWA.
But there are other worms in the wood. Masebo opposed a copper mining concession awarded in the middle of the Lower Zambezi National Park by the then Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environment Harry Kalaba (who has since been shuffled to become Minister of Foreign Affairs). Taking on political heavyweights like Kalaba usually spells doom in African politics, but Minister Masebo felt she had right on her side. She said important steps were ignored - the basis for the issuance of the 25 year mining licence was not clearly known and the licence was issued BEFORE the environmental impact assessment process was completed.
Zambian Vice President Guy Scott also weighed in on the mining issue, saying that “… the Kangaluwi Copper Mine project area shall remain part of the Lower Zambezi National Park. Subsequently, Mwembeshi Resources Limited [the mining company] shall only implement the project after full consultations and compliance with ZAWA’s prescribed conditions and specifications”.
He quoted Section 24(2) of the Zambia Wildlife Act which states “Without prejudice to the generality of the powers to impose conditions under this section, the Authority [ZAWA] may impose conditions as to the exercise of any mining rights in accordance with the measures specified under an environmental impact assessment approved by the Environmental Council …”
Masebo was replaced by Jean Kalaba, an erstwhile nurse and then Community, Mother and Child Health Deputy Minister, on March 26. One of Minister Kalaba’s first actions was to dismiss Minister Masebo’s ZAWA Board. Former Board Chairman Guy Robinson said she had every right to do so and that he will now carry on with his life. One of the other Board members was the Vice President Guy Scott’s wife, Charlotte. Kalaba will now announce a new Board (and we assume a new Director-General) in short order. She says this new Board will be composed of people with real knowledge of wildlife conservation.
One does hope that order will be restored to the agency responsible for Zambia’s wildlife. Not only have Zambia’s elephants and rhinos been almost poached out of existence and Zambia’s lions been trophy hunted at highly damaging rates, but ivory stockpiles kept at ZAWA headquarters have been looted. The issue of the copper mine also needs to be comprehensively addressed by ZAWA, especially since the Zambia Environmental Management Agency opposed awarding of the contract.
For the sake of Zambia’s citizens and their wildlife heritage we strongly encourage newly appointed Minister Kalaba to take her responsibilities seriously and restore conservation confidence. Looks like she will have a big challenge on her hands.
Picture credit: Chris Gamel
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Posted by Chris Macsween at 13:57
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