PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says he is prepared to break the existing cartels in the wildlife sector and has directed the Zambia Wildlife Authority to propose policy and legislative reforms to make the wildlife sector work for the poor majority. President Lungu issued the order when he received a special briefing from acting ZAWA director-general Kampamba Kombe on the status of the wildlife sector.
“I want to see this sector benefit the poor people who are invariably the owners of the resource. If the sector, which is a collective endowment for all of us, operates as a sector for only few by a few, then for me it can’t work. This is totally unacceptable. I am prepared to break-up by law, the existing cartels in the wildlife sector. I want you to immediately bring up proposals for legal and policy reforms that will make this sector work for the people,”
President Lungu said according to a statement issued by his special assistant for press and public relations Amos Chanda. “I want rapid transformation of this industry because when God gave us these resources, He intended that this be a common resource and there is no reason it can remain a preserve for a few.” President Lungu said it was unacceptable that in the vast South Luangwa National Park, there were only two indiginously owned lodges and that the entire wildlife sector chain participation from Zambians was at a bare minimum.
He later visited Chimfule Lodge and Mushroom Lodge to understand the challenges Zambian entrepreneurs were facing to make it in the wildlife and tourism sectors. “Our people cannot, as it were, be perpetual spectators in the midst of plenty. This saddens me. The policy direction you need we shall give you and I must assure you that I am prepared to go a step further to bring legislation to break up these cartels in the sector. If the industry cannot reform itself to allow locals to participate, it is the responsibility of government to facilitate equity in the sharing of national resources,” he said. “We cannot have a tourism and wildlife industry owned by foreigners, operated by foreigners and for foreigners. We need change.”
President Lungu expressed concern that when the great majority of the people were excluded from the enjoyment of their God-given resource, the risk of resource-nationalism was ever so present and therefore the government intervention was inevitable to forestall order. On hunting concessions, President Lungu encouraged the ZAWA boss to adhere to the law and ensure that no single group of people was allowed to dominate the hunting blocs.
“When you are within the law, you will always have our support and you therefore have to proceed as you professionally deem fit,” he said. And President Lungu announced that his administration would pilot a visa waiver for one year for nationals from four countries: two Asian and two European to ascertain the effect on tourism arrivals.
During the trial period, the government would undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the waiver with specific focus on the impact on security and other related matters. Kombe thanked President Lungu for retaining Jean Kapata as tourism minister because she had stabilised the operations of ZAWA and reduced negative publicity around the organisation to a bare minimum since she assumed office.