The Sylvia Masebo Tribunal yesterday turned racial when a witness branded Zambians of Asian origin in the business of Safari hunting as poachers who were allegedly involved in smuggling Ivory to some unknown countries.
And the Tribunal heard that a white family cartel had dominated the 19 Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) Safari hunting concession tender that has since been cancelled.
James Chungu, a Lusaka based businessman in the hospitality industry has accused Safari hunters of Asian origin of indiscriminately poaching Zambia’s wildlife and allegedly involved in the illegal exportation of trophies such as Ivory.
Chungu, the proprietor of Chita Lodge and new owner of Rimo Motel in Kafue demanded that government should maintain the ban on Safari hunting because most of the people who were of Asian origin were indiscriminately hunting Zambia’s wildlife.
Chungu who sounded hostile while being cross examined said wildlife in Zambia was at the mercy of Safari hunters and that the decision by Masebo to ban Safari hunting had come at an opportune time.
Chungu, member of the Lusenga Trust, an NGO in wildlife conservation accused Zambians of Asian origin of perpetrating poaching alleging that most of the deals in Ivory could be traced to the Zambians of Asian origin.
“These Asians go to hunting blocks and are killing our animals indiscriminately and our wildlife has been depleted. They are the focal point of smuggling of Ivory and I am happy that the minister has banned Safari Hunting. We have to stop these people from killing our animals because tourists will stop coming here and our hospitality industry that includes the running of lodges will be affected,” Chungu said.
And Gavin Robinson, the proprietor of GR Safaris told the Tribunal that he was related to a number of families that were running Safari hunting businesses.
During cross examination by one of the lawyers representing former minister of transport and communications William Harrington, Gilbert Phiri, Gavin revealed that he was related to Alister Norton, John Du Play and Abie Du Play, all of whom were in the Safari hunting business and were among the people who bid for some of the 19 hunting blocks.
It was established that Alister Norton was one of the directors of Makasa Safaris Limited, John Du Play was a director of Muchinga Adventures and Abie Du Play was also one of the directors of Safari Adventures.
It was also established that Gavin Robinson was the son of the current ZAWA board chairman Guy Robinson who was a member of the Masebo’s advisory committee that amended the tender document that saw the eventual tendering of the 19 Safari Hunting concessions.
Gavin whose company GR Safaris was among the companies that had lost the bid complained that the tender committee had disqualified his bid on grounds that he had left out a signature on the cover of the bid and that the security cheque was to be drawn on a third party account.
He however said he did not know if his family members were among the bidders of the ZAWA tender and when pressed to state if he knew their live of businesses, he declined to answer.
Asked by Lawyer Phiri if he was the son to Robinson, the current ZAWA board chairman, Gavin answered in the affirmative but denied assertions that his father could have influenced the cancellation of the tender because his family business were not among those who were selected for the Safari hunting concession tender.