SAFARI operators have sought the help of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere after the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) withdrew hunting rights from indigenous operators and gave them to South African agents.
On December 31 2011, ZPWMA withdrew licences for concessions that were being run by indigenous operators after the expiry of the licences saying they had a new strategy of sweating the assets.
According to a Parks board resolution of a meeting held in April 2011 "all expired leases must revert to the authority where they will be managed under a different business model".
"We have since received corroborated evidence that ZPWMA, which falls under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management, has handed over the three concession Area namely Matetsi Unit 2, Charara Safari Area and Makuti Safari Area to South Africa operators, Katzke Safaris and John Nel," Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ) chairman Emmanuel Fundira wrote to Kasukuwere in a January 10 letter.
"If ZPWMA required an agent rather than a concession holder, I am sure a pool of existing operators could have been able to facilitate such a role and also that a tendering process should have taken place, other than opting to use foreign operators."
The letter was copied to Environment and Natural Resources Management minister Francis Nhema and chief secretary to President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda.
Charara Safari Area is now being run by Edmond Mkaratigwa's Bauna Safaris effective January 1. The company was allocated the concession by ZPWMA.
Chararara, Matetsi Unit 2 and Makuti Safari Area were previously run by Paradzai Zimondi, Mike Chidziva and Emmanuel Fundira respectively.
SOAZ said the actions by ZPWMA were not only deplorable "but in fact lack transparency and are against the ethos ofindigenisation and economic empowerment" adding that the move had weakened the economic base of indigenous people, enriching foreigners with local resources.
SOAZ said it was "very concer-ned about this type of behaviour and believe that your office needs to investigate the issue and apply corrective measures accordingly".
Nhema referred all questions to the authority's acting director-general, Edson Chidziya.
In written responses, the authority said the three concessions in question were not run by South African operators as alleged, but were being operated by the Zimbabwe Parks and Management Authority as strategic business units.
"The Authority appointed a marketing agent for the three (3) concessions as is the norm in the tourism industry. The marketing side is being done by foreign agents which is also the norm in the tourism industry," it said.
It said, to be competitive in the industry, one had to depend on marketing agents in source markets "for the purposes of marketing and selling tourism safaris".
"For hunting safaris, these are sold two or three years in advance by agents in source markets that have direct access and command the respect of the client base. Foreign clients want to deal with reputable agents whom they have interacted with before as they entrust their hardearned money as deposits for the hunts with these people," it said.
The authority said that tourism entities or companies did not work with one agent but several agents who were willing to bring business and under the arrangements the marketing sales agent did not have any control or rights to the business of the company except to market and bring in clients for which they are paid a commission.
"In the selection process, both local and foreign agents are considered and at present, we have applications from both local and international companies," the authority said, adding that the South Africa, agent was appointed because of their reputation in the hunting industry and because they had already been doing business with Zimbabwe hunting operators.