TOURISM and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo has directed the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) to immediately open up a separate account for the Community Resource Boards (CRBs) where safari hunting operators will be depositing 50 per cent of the money for hunting in Game Management Areas (GMAs).
And Ms Masebo has assured the CRBs that her ministry will ensure that they are paid the more than K1 billion ZAWA owes them.
Ms Masebo's directive signifies that all the hunting proceeds from outfitters (safari hunting companies) will not be placed in one account, as has been the case. The Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) Act No. 12 of 1998 identifies CRBs as partners with ZAWA in wildlife conservation and that they should equally share the hunting licence proceeds.
Ms Masebo's instruction was arrived at following submissions made by various stakeholders in six groups, among them traditional leaders, who are the custodians of the GMA land, who proposed that safari outfitters should pay money directly to them and not through ZAWA.
"On the payment mode, we shall continue with the status quo (50-50 per cent), but will not go with business, as usual. ZAWA will open a separate account for the CRBs, but it will not have access to the account. That, we shall do with immediate effect," she said.
Ms Masebo observed that although there was a Statutory Instrument (SI) currently in place on the safari outfitters depositing the hunting proceeds in one account, Ms Masebo said that could be changed even "within seven days".
The concession lease agreement period proved to be a contentious issue, prompting Ms Masebo to call for a voting process, resulting in those in support of the agreement going up to 10 years winning the process as they polled 77 votes, while those for five years, which included more than 15 chiefs present, got 66 votes.
The outcome prompted an unidentified chief to rise and ask Ms Masebo to issue a ministerial statement to resolve the matter, arguing that traditional leaders were owners of the land and thus should decide the duration of the lease agreement.
Ms Masebo in response said on such issues, Government was guided by the people, which was the case during the stakeholders' meeting, adding that a consensus was a way of proceeding on the matter and assured the traditional leader that she would later offer her guidance on the matter.
Ms Masebo also warned of termination of lease agreements for those operators whose activities were found not to be benefitting the communities they operated in following an assessment process by the chiefs, CRBs and ZAWA after three years.
On the K1.6 billion ZAWA currently owed to the CRBs, Ms Masebo assured that, before the end of this year, the whole debt would be liquidated for the CRBs.
She further instructed ZAWA to immediately deposit the funds in the new CRBs' account.
Earlier, ZAWA director-general, Edwin Matokwani clarified that the Authority had been paying the CRBs their dues, saying from the total K5.2 billion debt, it had remained with a balance of K1,686,963,324, adding that ZAWA .
By 21:00 hours on Wednesday, Ms Masebo was still responding to the submissions from the six groups on seven topics, among them being on flaws in tender bids, GMA's encroachment, Safari outfitters, game ranching and mining.
The two-day stakeholders' meeting held at Sandy's Creations was based on three-fold objectives, among them to draw consensus on reclassification of hunting blocks, concession fees, support to local communities and tenure mode of allocation of hunting blocks.