Two tourism operators who bid for some of the cancelled 19 Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) hunting concessions tender have accused Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo of having constituted an advisory committee that had members who were among the companies that bid for the tender.
And the chairperson of the Tribunal investigating Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo Suprme Court Judge Rhoyda Kaoma has insisted that Attorney General Mumba Malila is a critical witness in the inquiry that has ordered that he (Malila) must appear before the Tribunal because of his status in Government.
Proprietor of Tiyende Safari Geotsch Peter Michael on Thursday told the Judge Kaoma Tribunal investigating Masebo over allegations of breach of Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct and State Security Act among others that it was surprising that the Minister of Tourism and Arts had included tour operators who were interested parties to the tender.
Before the tender was cancelled, Masebo formed her advisory committee that included George Sokota, Guy Robinson Timothy Mushibwe, Asherwood Ketihian and Anna Baro.
On Thursday, it was revealed to the Judge Kaoma Tribunal that Asherwood Keithian who is the one of the directors of Luangwa Crocodile Safaris was one of the bidders for some of the 19 ZAWA hunting Safari concession and that his appointment had influenced the cancellation of the tender.
Peter Michael said he found it strange that an operator who had bided for some of the hunting blocks had been appointed by Masebo to advise her on the amendment of the tender document that gave advantage to the preferred companies.
Peter Michael testified that Masebo acted on rumours that his company, Tiyende Safari had made all the requirements as demanded by the tender document and that it was shocking that there were allegations that he had delivered his bid document out of time.
The Judge Rhoyda Tribunal heard that Asherwood Ketihian was in fact the concession holder of Chifunda Game Management Area who should never have been allowed to be part of the Masebo advisory committee because he was certainly serving the interest of his company at the disadvantage of other competing operators.
“The Minister (Masebo) called for a consultative meeting and on the high table, I recognized Asherwood, who was one of the members of the advisory committee to the minister. Asherwood is the owner of Luangwa Crocodile Safaris and was one of the bidders for some of the hunting blocks. And we were concerned how the process could run transparently when some of the bidders were closely associates of the minister. She claimed the process was marred with irregularities but talking about her committee that compromised the evaluation process. Masebo told the consultative meeting that she was ZAWA,” Peter Michael said.
He also said the anonymous letter written to Masebo claiming that his company was only included after the tender had closed did not make sense because he had delivered his bid documents in time and attended the session when the bids were being opened.
Another operator, Abdulkarim Saeed said it was shocking that Masebo had cancelled the tender based on rumour mongering that his company Mopane Safaris had submitted its bid document out of time.
Saeed said it was erroneous that the Masebo had decided to cancel the tender on the basis that his company was related to some other operators who had also bided for some of the hunting Safari concessions.
And Justice Kaoma Malila had failed appear before the Tribunal for the second time to appear before the Tribunal because he was in Livingstone for an official assignment.
When the Tribunal resumed its sittings yesterday, Malila was not in court prompting Judge Kaoma to extend the period in which the complainant, William Harrington who is being represented by Makebi Zulu, Gilbert Phiri, Keith Mweemba and Jonas Zimba to Monday afternoon.
Justice Kaoma said Malila was a subpoenaed witness and critical to the Tribunal and could not conclude allow the complainant to conclude their submissions without getting testimony from the Attorney General.
She told the two sides that Malila being a subpoenaed witness, it was not the fault of the complainant that the witness had failed to show up and that the Tribunal had decided to extend the time for Harrington to accommodate the Attorney General.
But lawyers representing Masebo objected to the ruling arguing that the extension was going to affect the number of days they had been allocated to complete dealing with their witnesses.
Bonaventure Mutale who is the leading lawyer for Masebo said the Tribunal had indicated that that it would work late including Saturdays if there was need to which Justice Kaoma said there was no need to worry because the respondents would also have recover their lost day.
“We are ready to proceed as both the complainant and the respondents are here but we are unable because the witness is not here. And it is a situation where the complainant has no control because the witness was subpoenaed. We would have to adjust the position again so that Malila must come on Monday in the afternoon because we cannot allow the complainant to conclude without hearing from Malila because of the nature of witness” Justice Kaoma said.