SMART looking new Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki had no kind words for lawmakers seeking to reverse the allocation of hunting blocks which left the bulk of foreign firms in the cold.
"There will be no reallocation of hunting blocks as some of you MPs want because the exercise was done according to the law," Mr Kagasheki told parliament while winding up his ministry's budget estimates over a week ago in Dodoma.
Kagasheki then aimed several jibes at Shadow Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Peter Msigwa, who had pointed out in his speech that the former has no option but to revisit the allocation of the hunting blocks which awarded local firms 85 per cent of the stake.
"If the minister is resisting pressure to revisit the allocation of hunting blocks which was the subject which led to his predecessor's dismissal then he too should resign," charged the firebrand Iringa Urban Member of Parliament (MP) from the opposition Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema), Rev. Peter Msigwa.
At a well attended press conference soon after Kagasheki's budget sailed through the House, Msigwa argued that most of the local firms allocated hunting blocks had no capacity as they lacked capital, equipment and expertise. "Professional hunting business is not an easy feat, it's an expensive venture which requires a lot of investment that many foreign firms sidelined in the exercise, have done over the years," Rev. Msigwa argued.
But drama ensued when Jamhuri newspaper editor, Manyerere Jackton squeezed Msigwa between a rock and hard surface questioning the Iringa Urban lawmaker's sincerity in defending interests of foreign firms against locals which have been sidelined for years in the trade. "First let me ask you if reports that some vocal members of parliament teamed up with members of Parliamentary Land, Natural Resources and Environment for a seminar organized by Mr Mawalla?" asked Mr Jackiton who further alleged that the meeting sought to convince vocal MPs to rally behind the unpopular decision to force Kagasheki reallocate the hunting blocks. The Jamhuri editor further challenged Msigwa to explain reasons behind much of the text making up his official speech tabled in parliament, was simply copied and pasted from a paper which Tumaini University law lecturer, Nyaga Mawalla who also represents many foreign hunting firms' interests, presented at the seminar.
"I know Mr Mawalla professionally in his capacity and nothing much. Part of my speech also comes from his paper because I think he is conversant with the area of natural resources and tourism and as such, I did not see any reason why I should not use part of his text," argued an emotional Msigwa who went on to refute any questionable relations with the Arusha based lawyer who represent Grumeti Reserves.
Several MPs including Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee, James Lembeli attended the seminar which was held prior to Kagasheki's budget speech tabling in the House. Mr Lembeli headed a parliamentary probe team early this year which investigated the hunting blocks allocation saga and faulted the exercise, saying some local companies with no experience and capacity were allocated more than one block.
In the report, Lembeli said former Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ezekiel Maige committed a number of mistakes, some of which were contrary to advice given by a ministerial expert committee that did the actual vetting of the applicants. Lembeli said some successful applicants such as Said Kawawa and Malagarasi Hunting Safaris were awarded First and Second Class hunting blocks contrary to expert advise.
The fiery Kahama lawmaker argued that in the Government Notice of September 7, 2011 which published allocation of hunting blocks to 60 companies, it did not include blocks awarded to the two companies. But Minister Maige stood his ground denouncing all allegations made against him while emphasizing that the allocation exercise was over for the period covering 2013/18. He accused the parliamentary committee of being one-sided, in the course of investigation, taking views from hunting companies and associations and compiling a report, without cross-checking the facts with the minister and his team.
"The report is biased but let me assure everybody that the allocation exercise will not be repeated, if any company feels offended, let them appeal as per procedures," Maige who displayed some unique characteristics uncommon among Tanzanian ministers who, on several occasions have been accused of favouring foreign companies, stressed. Maige was relieved of his position last May when President Jakaya Kikwete dropped six cabinet ministers in the first ever earth shaking reshuffle, following parliamentary pressure that wanted ministers facing various allegations to go.
But while Maige is away, his spirit seems to be haunting those seeking to reverse the hunting blocks allocation exercise which sidelined many foreign firms, which the very parliament put Ms Mwangunga to task in 2008/9 when she was seen as favouring foreign companies. "It's very unclear what we want as a nation because this law was passed by parliament after several complaints by MPs that foreign hunting firms were making super profits from the business while the government is making peanuts in revenue," said Manyerere who has done extensive courage of the subject dating back to Mwangunga's tenure in office.
But as pressure piles up on Kagasheki to act against the law in favour of foreign hunting firms which have invested heavily in the industry, people like Advocate Mawalla, MP Msigwa and others may found the going extremely tough in the next five years because the only way out is to seek revision of the 2009 WC Act.
Mawala who is behind the successful Ikona Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Serengeti Game Reserve through Mawala Trust Limited, has relentlessly argued that the amended law does not only deny foreign firms recognized as investors by Tanzania Investment Centre law, their rights but also denies local investors a stake in the lucrative business. "But the WC Act No. 5 of 2009, favours hunting firms owned in majority by Tanzanians, discriminating those Tanzanians who purchased 25 per cent shares of the foreign firms," he argued.