Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda told the National Assembly here on Thursday that the government will come up with new conditions that will check cheating in live animals export.
He said during the prime minister’s impromptu question and answer session that the new system will specify type of animals allowed to be exported and new fees to be charged.
“The government’s position is to suspend exports of live animals for one year or a year and a half to enable the ministry put in place mechanisms to check cheating by unscrupulous traders,” he said, without specifying exact date for the suspension.
The premier was answering Pudenciana Kikwembe (Special Seats-CCM) who had sought to know measures taken by the government to curb illegal exports of live animals and birds.
She was referring to an incident that occurred on November 26, last year, where 120 different live wildlife and 16 birds worth 170m/- were exported illegally.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Ezekiel Maige, told the National Assembly on Wednesday when moving his ministry’s 2011/12 budget estimates that six traders were arrested in connection with the incident and their case was pending at Moshi Magistrate’s Court.
He said other measures included formation of a task force to inspect sheds for animals and birds about to be exported to ensure they adhered to the country’s regulations. The inspection will involve all 180 licensed traders of live wildlife.
Other measures, he said, include working closely with international bodies including CITES and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) to see if ministry officials were involved in the scam with the view to taking appropriate measures.
He said, the trading licences of the suspects have been revoked, intelligence, security and inspection strengthened at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) where the contraband was loaded in Qatari military cargo plane. A permanent game warders’ post has also been mounted at KIA.
In his report, the chairman of the Lands, Natural Resources and Environment Parliamentary Committee, Mr James Lembeli, expressed disappointment for failure of the government to take the committee’s recommendation in recovering the animals and birds, leading to a loss of 170m/- in revenue.
He said the stolen animals included four giraffes. This, he added, was against wildlife regulations that bar foreigners from exporting live wildlife.
Meanwhile, several MPs have questioned on 120 different live wild animals which were illegally exported in a single consignment last year hence denying government millions in revenue.
The MPs who were debating budget estimate for Tourism and Natural Resources for 2011/2012 said that it was a shame to the country which has well established security system to hear that such animals were illegally exported and yet no one has been held responsible.
In the heated debate some MPs recommended that hunting blocks allotment committee formed by minister Maige be immediately disbanded.
The MPs also wanted the ministry to form a committee to probe Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) for being a threat to Ngorongoro residents’ development.
The outspoken legislator for Maswa West, Mr John Shibuda (Chadema), said that the ministry must ensure that the animals which were illegally exported be brought back to the country and the Wildlife division which oversees the animals be answerable.
Mr Shibuda wondered how smuggling of the animals became possible while the country had security organs, questioning effectiveness of Tanzanian intelligence system and where the officers were when such vice was taking place.
“Mr Maige does not deserve congratulations, why do we applaud him? He does not deserve that until the animals are back, animals were exported when he was in-charge. It is shame to Maige.. we want the animals back,” Mr Shibuda charged.
The legislator for Simanjiro, Mr Christopher Ole Sendeka (CCM), said that necessary and immediate measures were needed to stop abuse of national resources.
Mr Ole Sendeka suggested dissolution of whole Wildlife division saying it was crooked and even 180 hunting licences it had issued should be revoked as they are closely linked with such illegal animals’ exportation.
He said that the director for Wildlife division in the ministry, Mr Obed Mbangwa and other officials could not escape blame for “robbery” of the animals.
Mr Ole Sendeka also said that the division was full of favouritism and tribalism as almost all the top officials in the section were composed of staff from the same area and the same tribe hence suggesting dissolution of the division.
He also directed an urgent dissolution of NCAA board for failing to comply with National Environment Management Council (NEMC) recommendations.
Ms Magdalena Sakaya, (Special Seats-CUF) said that she was not impressed by the way some officers were behaving in the ministry. She said that in Urambo District there were some Natural Resources Management officers who were treating the residents unjustly as if they were refugees.
Ms Sakaya said that several times the officers were setting fire on human settlements on pretext that such residents had invaded the reserved areas.
“There were 310 houses which were burnt by these officers, leaving residents homeless and displaced. On May 28, this year these officers in collaboration with militia invaded some villages in Urambo… is this the country with the government for the people?” she asked.
Ms Sakaya said that the ministry was acting illegally by allowing its officers to be a nuisance to Urambo residents.
“The ministry has failed to do its work, Urambo District Commissioner and other officials are ordering inhabitants to be evicted, recently 23 residents were shot to death on the same reason… it is painful,” she said.
Ms Beatrice Shelukindo (CCM), MP for Kilindi, questioned on the legitimacy of the hunting blocks allotment committee which she said its appointment was questionable.
She pointed a finger at a top government official, whom she declined to mention, saying that he was planting seeds of tribalism and nepotism in Wildlife division for appointing many top officials in the division from the same tribe.
“Many people do not deserve being in that division, Director for Wildlife is not qualified for the post as he was the one who issued 180 illegal hunting licences… worse enough, he is still holding the position, the Wildlife division management must be dismantled,” Ms Shelukindo said.
Mr Hamad Rashid (CUF), legislator for Wawi, wondered as to why the tourism sector was being overlooked despite its significant contribution to the national income.
He said that even a Five-Year Development Plan launched by President Jakaya Kikwete did not state initiatives to bring up the sector to light so that the government would be able to collect more revenue from the sector.
In another development, minister Maige told the National Assembly that the Director of the Wildlife Department, Mr Obeid Mbangwa, and two other officials in the department have been suspended.
Mr Maige said the officials would remain suspended to allow thorough investigations on the scandals that had rocked the department including “robbery” of live game.