The Tsholotsho Rural District Council has been caught in scandal after it was exposed for by-passing Cabinet in awarding an elephant hunting concession tender to a safari operator.
The council early this year flighted a tender for a joint venture elephant hunting concession for Tsholotsho North constituency, which it eventually awarded to Matupula Hunters.
A rival safari operator, Lodzi Hunters and Safaris, challenged the decision at the High Court of Zimbabwe accusing the council of not following the proper procurement processes.
Lodzi Hunters and Safaris also wrote to the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ), which ruled in its favour, correspondence in the possession of The Standard shows.
According to PRAZ, which is responsible for controlling and regulating the procurement processes of government departments, ministries and parastatals, Cabinet approval must be sought in joint ventures of such nature, hence the awarding of a joint hunting concession tender to Matupula Hunters in Tsholotsho North was illegal.
"The present application (by Lodzi) is for the review of the procurement proceedings in respect of the Tsholotsho North Hunting concession tender number TRDC: 03/2019.
"Applicant is alleging that the procurement proceedings were riddled with gross irregularities and illegalities as to render the said proceedings liable for being reviewed and set aside," PRAZ chairperson Joel Mambara wrote in a final determination following the sitting of a review panel on June 19.
The respondent in the case was the Tsholotsho council.
Lodzi Hunters and Matupula Hunters are both legitimate holders of hunting permits in the Tsholotsho North and South areas respectively. The two safari operators have been at loggerheads for years over hunting permits.
"Before going into the merits of the matter, the review panel raised the issue of the need for the respondent to be cleared by Cabinet first before commencing any tender proceedings involving joint ventures. This is in terms of s100 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22:23).
"The respondent, in response, said that it was not aware of such a requirement.
"In view of this requirement, the respondent conceded, and properly so, that the application to set aside the tender proceedings be granted.
"By unanimous decision, the application to set aside the procurement proceedings relating to the Tsholotsho North Tender No TRDC: 03/2019 be and is hereby granted."
The council's acting chairperson Nkululeko Sibanda refused to shed light on the matter when contacted for comment.
Lodzi and Matupula Hunters have been locked in a dispute over the hunting rights in Tsholotsho North for years.
In 2017, Matupula Hunters contested the decision by the local authority to give Lodzi Hunters a permit to conduct elephant hunting in the same area in which it has exclusive safari rights for five years for the purpose of raising funds for the construction of a football stadium.
In 2015, when the need to fund the construction of Tsholotsho Stadium arose, the local authority decided to give Lodzi permission to hunt in the whole of Tsholotsho district, including the area exclusive to Matupula Hunters .
Matupula Hunters engaged the council to settle the matter, but to no avail, as the local authority, together with Lodzi, insisted that they had the right to bring hunters to shoot elephants in Tsholotsho, leading to the court dispute.
Over $360 000 raised for the construction of a stadium through the sale of 60 elephants, each going for $18 000, which were in 2013 donated by the Environment, Water and Climate Change ministry then under Saviour Kasukuwere, was allegedly stolen.