6 March 2018

Tanzania: Operators Plan Legal Action Against Ngorongoro Consevation Authority

Over 30 tour companies look to wage a legal battle against the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) over libel.

Last month, the NCAA internal memo containing a list of shame, apparently leaked to the media and the latter carried the alleged damaging story, saying the authority had banned the 35 tour companies from taking tourists within its area, purportedly for engaging in massive fraud.

The enlisted tour companies have since denied the allegations, complaining over the NCAA condemning them unheard and painting a picture before the eyes of their domestic and international clients that all of the mentioned firms are not trustworthy.

They are demanding that the NCAA should apologise through letters, local and international media, and pay them damages for tainting their images to the public and their clients or face legal suit for defamation.

The aggrieved tour operators say they had received unjustified claims from the NCAA and that some of them promptly paid for them in good faith to avert disturbances. They, however, doubt the NCAA Accounts Department might have used the money to recover the authority's own internal loss.

To clear the air, the tour operators also want the NCAA to send them justification for its claims as well as statements and balances of their cash captured in accounts of the authority's blocked electronic payment system. Some of the victim tour companies -- Corto Safari and Duma Explorer -- admit receipt of invoices from the NCAA demanding a mere $10 and $100, respectively, without justifying the claim.

Corto Safaris Director, Ms Hellen Mchaki, explains that the NCAA sent her firm the note in mid December, 2017, demanding $10 in outstanding electronic card payment for 2015.

"We have since paid it to avoid nuisance, but on condition that we get evidence for the alleged fraud. Two weeks later, surprisingly, we saw our company in the list of the accused firms," says Ms Mchaki.

"The NCAA controls foolproof electronic payment system. This makes us wonder how the tour operators could temper with it," she queried.

Duma Explorer Director, Mr Hezron Mbise, said he was unhappy with they the way the NCAA gate clerks mishandled his clients by denying them entrance because of what he termed unjustified $100 claims.

"Imagine tourists couldn't be allowed into Ngorongoro Crater and my drivers questioned the reasons for the decision, but their efforts were fruitless," Mr Mbise noted, stressing that a few days later he started receiving many e-mails from his agents questioning about the inhospitality and if his company had been really banned.

The Deputy Conservator - Corporate Services, Mr Asangye Bangu, told The Citizen that seeking justice through court is everybody's right, but before taking that route one should weigh wisely.

"I apologise that an internal memo was leaked to the media. NCAA did not intend to ban or damage the image of the companies. We haven't banned any company," Mr Bangu explained.

He, however, could not give the amount of loss the tour operators caused because interference in the electronic payment system.

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