A tug of war pitting players in Tanzania’s consumptive tourism and the government has taken a new twist with professional hunters now accusing authorities of negating the rule of law.
Reacting to allegations the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Hamis Kigwangalla, recently made against its members, the Tanzania Professional Hunters Association (TPHA) says the remarks were a culmination of disrespect to natural justice.
“TPHA have received with grave consternation the remarks made by Dr Kigwangala in the course of a press conference held in Dodoma in which he accused several hunting companies and our members of a miscellany of criminal deeds including poaching” reads a statement signed by TPHA Chief Executive, Ms Lathifah Sykes.
On 25 January 2018, Dr Kigwangalla released before the press conference what he termed as the first list of operators, owners of hunting blocks and officials in the ministry accused of supporting the poaching syndicate.
The cabinet minister publicly mentioned the suspects whom he said had for a decade paralyzed the country’s national parks, protected areas and game reserves for supporting poaching syndicate in one way of another.
Dr Kigwangalla, speaking to reporters, said: “The suspects along with their associates will first undergo a thorough inquiry by the ministry’s special task force…I have potential incriminating evidence and I want them to appear before the task force for questioning.”
The professional hunters’ umbrella organisation wonders in its statement if the press conference the minister held was meant to summon its suspected members to report to Dodoma for an inquiry.
“The government operates through documents, but we haven’t received any summons besides the media reports,” laments TPHA in its statement.
TPHA is further discomfited that the Minister with blithe indifference to the due process rights of the parties concerned, would find it appropriate to ventilate such grave accusations against several companies and individuals over the media whilst knowing that such accusations would be virally and uncritically replicated throughout the world and thus occasion lasting prejudice against the parties concerned without being heard.
TPHA says that it also find the utterances of the Minister during the aforesaid press conference to be the acme of irresponsibility and discordant with the most trite tenets of constitutional governance.
“The Minister’s approach of brazenly and publicly associating several prominent companies and individuals with the dastardly crime of poaching is highly regrettable and affronts the dictates of natural justice since by his widely disseminated utterances the Minister has virtually condemned the affected parties unheard and trampled over their rights to due process but more disconcertingly, his abjured remarks would have the adverse effect of titling the process of investigation against the affected parties” reads the TPHA statement.
As result of the Dr Kigwangalla’s injudicious remarks, TPHA says it is inconceivable that any process set by the Minister to investigate the allegations raised by him would be fair and just towards the parties whom he has incriminated in the most public and sonorous manner.
“Apart from the adverse effect on the rights of the specific companies and individuals, the Minister’s remarks would also seriously taint the image of the entire country’s hunting industry since his remarks yield the negative impact that the industry has inextricable ties to criminal syndicates” statement reads in part.
“We are extremely disappointed. Dr Kigwangala has deliberately tainted an image of the entire hunting industry for unceremoniously naming the key companies in the mass media allegedly involved in poaching syndicate in the country,” contends Ms Sykes in a statement.
TPHA is also dismayed that the Minister’s injurious remarks were preceded by attempts by him to cancel the validly granted hunting blocks to hunting operators and later as a palliative measure to placate the protests against the cancellation of the hunting blocks, the abridgement of the tenure of the five year tenure of the hunting blocks to a term of two years.
These precedent acts by Dr Kigwangalla were not based on the law and bespeaks unilateralism on the part of the Minister and lack of solicitude to the large interest of the industry.
TPHA believes that the Minister’s regrettable remarks in the course of the said press conference is intertwined with the unilateral and illegal acts highlighted above.
The timing of Dr Kigwangalla’s remarks is also importune as it coincides with the fact that at this moment, a preponderant number of hunting companies are taking part in international convention to market Tanzania as the potential destination for consumptive tourism.
“It is a cinch that the Minister’s remarks will affect the marketing initiatives of these companies in the ongoing convention, which will in turn affect revenue generation of the sector,” notes Ms Lathifah in a statement.
Hunting sector is worth up to $30 million a year to the country’s economy, but fresh data shows that in 2016 the Africa’s wildlife-rich-country, only pocketed $20 million, due to various factors, including poaching menace.
“No matter what evidence the minister has against the alleged hunting companies and my members, the truth will remain forever that only court of law is the sole organ of the state that entrusted to condemn the suspects after having gone through the due process of principles of natural justice” says Ms. Sykes in statement.
TPHA maintains that the viability of the industry and the country as the best investment destination hinges on the respect of the rule of law and that to bandy about incriminating allegations before investigations are conducted by the pertinent authorities is to denude the rule of law of any efficacy and that would portend serious consequences to the long term sustainability of the industry and the country.
“The minister violated the rule of law by condemning the suspected hunting companies and individuals even before giving them a room to tell their side of the story as it clearly stipulated in the constitution of Tanzania, where every body is entitled to be heard” the statement reads in part.
“Lastly, TPHA would hasten to add that they are not opposed to investigation of any of the allegations against any of the companies or individuals adversely mentioned by the Minister in the course of the said press conference, however, they strenuously object to the cavalier and irresponsible manner in which the Minister has gone about making grave allegations of a miscellany of crimes against several companies and individuals before the relevant authorities have conducted any investigation to ascertain the veracity of those allegations” statement reads in part.
The Minister’s utterances against those companies and individuals amount to a rabid witch-hunt and derogates from the niceties of due process, Ms Lathifah concludes in her statement