THE VULTURES ARE CIRCLING ON MAIGES TAINTED LEGACY
The parliamentary committees report, which led to the downfall of former disgraced, and often said to be quite inept tourism minister Ezekiel Maige, has now triggered a formal investigation by the Tanzanian anti corruption watch dog PCCB, which is investigating the ministers and his ministry officials conduct over the hugely controversial allocation of hunting blocks last year.
The investigation must have been ongoing for a while as a regular source from Dar es Salaam confirmed overnight that while the matter has only just come into the public domain, questions by PCCB investigators appear to have been posed for several months already and fear if not panic is spreading amongst suspected participants in the scheme within the Wildlife Department.
New minister Khamis Kagesheki has upon assuming office as the minister for natural resources and wildlife made it abundantly clear that we intends to leave no stone unturned to rid his ministry of corrupt and in his words unpatriotic civil servants which have disgraced the sector in the past. A number of jobs are on the line as both internal ministry investigations as well as the more official PCCB probe are underway and it is understood that the parliamentary committee on natural resources and wildlife too is not letting go, having claimed the scalp of the minister but wanting to see culprits charged in court and prosecuted over their alleged conduct.
The source also made comments available from the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureaus Director General who reportedly said: At the moment I cannot reveal anything. We are still investigating the whole exercise and when this is done you will be informed before adding PCCB will leave no stone unturned in the investigation. The parliamentary committed had unearthed a range of glaring irregularities in the allocation of hunting blocks, allegedly denying government revenue through corrupt practices, which saw as many as 16 companies without a formal application being granted a hunting block while others were denied renewals under the pretext of giving Tanzanian companies a chance to get into the business. The subsequent outcry was dismissed at the time by Maige and his top lieutenants but as the parliamentary enquiry marched on he was eventually running out of excuses and found himself in a self created minefield of both official and unofficial comments he had made and subsequently, seen as a growing liability, got sacked from cabinet.
Hunting in East Africa is a hugely controversial activity and regularly under fire by the conservation community which complains that poaching is tearing greatly into the available wildlife stocks as it is, making hunting unsustainable, while pointing to past experience where in particular Middle Eastern block holders literally shot their concession empty with little if any supervision, before allegedly lighting fires inside parks and neighbouring blocks to drive game into their own sectors. Demands to ban hunting completely however have fallen on deaf ears so far in Tanzania as at least in the past this development is at least circumstantial evidence towards that theory has been lucrative enough to use corrupt practices to get hunting blocks allocated and then mint money, while supervision, monitoring and reporting remained deeply flawed.
Only last Friday did the chairman of the parliamentary committee make further comments in response to a WWF report on poaching in Tanzania and revelations by the Environmental Investigation Agency based in the UK over the scale of poaching in his country, which claimed that nearly 50 percent of the blood ivory nabbed in 2010 originated from Tanzania, following DNA analysis of the contraband. He alleged that between 20 30 elephant a day are being poached across Tanzania, progressively decimating previously thriving elephant populations in the interest of short lived financial gains and blamed corruption in the wildlife and other sectors for it.
Speaking at the launch of the Africa Ecological Footprint Report by the WWF in conjunction with the African Development Bank on Friday last week in Arusha, the WWF Director General, Mr. Jim Leape, was reported to have said the great demand for ivory (and rhino horns) in Asia was a matter of serious concern.
He demanded of African governments to protect the fragile ecosystem in the continent which was under pressure from spreading human populations into areas previously thought barely fit for farming, now causing increased human / wildlife conflict. Mr Leape was quoted to have said: Elephant populations in Central Africa alone are estimated to have declined by more than 50 per cent between 1995 and 2007 primarily due to poaching.
Watch this space.