Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo was wrong to have cancelled the 19 Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) hunting Safari concession tender and was equally wrong to fire its director Edwin Matokwani along with his four subordinate directors, Attorney General Mumba Malila has said.
Testifying in the on-going Judge Kaoma Tribunal, Malila said it was against the Zambia Public Procurement Agency (ZPPA) Act and the ZAWA Act for a Minister to interfere with the tender procedure and the administrative operations at the Authority.
Malila revealed that he had advised former ZAWA board chairman Larry Kalala that Masebo had no role in the ZAWA tender procurement process and therefore could not cancel the tender.
He said the cancellation of the tender was not done in conformity with the provisions of the ZPPA and ZAWA Acts and therefore was wrongly done.
Malila told the Tribunal that he did not know that Masebo had gone ahead to cancel the ZAWA hunting Safari Concession tender after he advised Tourism Minister against the action.
The Attorney General shocked Masebo’s lawyers when he told the Tribunal that he did not know that the Minister had fired the ZAWA directors saying it was not the role of government Ministers to take disciplinary action against officers in government or parastatals.
Malila said if it was Masebo who had fired ZAWA directors, then it was wrong for her to have taken such an action because she did not have authority to do so.
Asked by Harrington’s lawyer Makebi Zulu what advice he had rendered to Kalala over the intentions by Masebo to cancel the ZAWA tender, Malia said his response was that the minister had no visible role to play in the procurement process at the authority.
“I did emphasize that the Minister did not have any visible role to play in the procurement process at ZAWA. There is no reference in the ZPPA Act and the ZAWA Act that the Minister had any role in the cancellation of the tender. I was out of the country and I recall advising from the top of my head that it was wrong for the tender to be cancelled. It is my position that it was wrong for the Minister to fire the directors if indeed she fired them,” Malila said.
Malila said the Minister being the political head of a Ministry could however not be a by-stander when things were going wrong and could therefore advise for certain corrective measures to be taken without visibly being seen as taking the action.
Malila further said he had advised officials at ZAWA to seek comprehensive legal advice from the Solicitor General on the cancellation of the tender and the dismissal of the ZAWA directors.
The Attorney General testified that a minister must always undertake to consult the Attorney General before committing government to any programme that had legal implications.
Malia also said at no time did Masebo consult her over her statement that there were foreign aircrafts that were allegedly violating the Zambian airspace and airlifting Zambia’s wildlife to some unknown destination.
And Masebo’s lawyer Robert Simeza confessed that the defence did not expect Malila to testify against Masebo and that some of the evidence that he had put on record was not expected.
Simeza attempted to wave the Tribunal regulations and applied that Kabwata Member of Parliament Given Lubinda who last week revealed that Vice-President Guy Scott and PF secretary general Wynter Kabimba had instructed him to fire Matokwani together with his subordinate directors be recalled to the stand.
But Judge Kaoma ruled Simeza out of order and reminded him that Lubinda was in the dock and that the defence had all the time to get the evidence they wanted.
Judge Kaoma said it was not the fault of the Tribunal that the defence had missed the opportunity to comprehensively cross examine Lubinda who was a subpoenaed witness.
The petitioner has since concluded with witnesses and today Masebo who has been shuttling between her home and the Supreme Court takes the stand.