Friday, 14 March 2014

After Tribunal Probe, Zambia Tourism Minister Is Not Hurt Alone

Whether Tourism Minister Sylvia Masebo is cleared or not by the tribunal investigating her, at the end individuals morals and institutional confidence would have been shredded by hidden interests. Vice president Scott insulted State Intelligence officers as dull, enmity among MPs of the ruling party has reached irretrievable depths and The Post newspaper disheveled its own credibility

EMBATTLED: Tourism Minister, Sylvia Masebo (left) with Veep Guy Scott
By Nyalubinge Ngwende
The tribunal investigating Zambian Tourism Minister Sylvia Masebo for her illegal interference with concession hunting licenses awarded to six companies closed on Monday (March 10, 2014), after several witnesses, including an Intelligence Officer and the country’s attorney general, testified against her.  

But whatever the outcome, Masebo would not have been the only one battered by the probe.

Innocent individuals would have been harangued and maligned, enmity between some senior members of the ruling Patriotic Front might have forever been pushed to irretrievable extents and government’s investigative institutions would have been discredited—dragged into bog.  

It did not just end there as the case also exposes further how much The Post newspaper is compromised beyond redemption, never again to represent credible media we know— that must be suffered by those in authority in order to protect the right of people to know. Now The Post is part of the government and is shamelessly serving the interests of PF leaders. 

The scandal, before a tribunal investigating Masebo for illegal interfering with awarded hunting licenses, also worsens the Kabwata ruling PF MP Given Lubinda’s problems that have made his party accuse him of being disloyal and a snitch, testifying against his own and leaking inside damaging information to party opponents.

First, what makes Masebo look dirtier as she indeed is? 

Immediately Masebo was moved to Ministry of Tourism and Arts, she burst in like possessed by some spirit, firing five directors at Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), changing the uniforms of scouts at a huge cost and cancelled legally issued hunting licenses.

All she said about changing the uniform is that the new one looked nice—whatever that means when government paid a huge cost for the unnecessary combat at the expense of providing logistics needed to protect the country’s wildlife.

On firing the senior managers, it is only during the tribunal that she came to reveal that President Sata ordered the sacking to because they would undermine her. Masebo’s ministry is big and looks beyond wildlife, but why it is only ZAWA that became the only ground for Sata’s witch-hunt still begs answers. It tells us that those managers were sacrificed for some ritual interest that the PF was concocting—maybe some impropriate deals.

However, senior managers that were fired by Masebo sued the State in the Industrial Relations Court granting them damages and costs, which will be borne by ZAWA. 

Coming to the crux of the matter, Masebo is facing Judge Rhoyda Kaoma Tribunal investigating her on allegations of breaching the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct. This concerns the cancelling of 19 hunting licenses which were issued through a public tender observed by intelligence security representatives. 

So far what came out of the tribunal is what drags more than just Masebo’s integrity into bog. 

On March 6, Masebo accused the Patriotic Front, all government departments including the Office of the President and the Anti-Corruption Commission as infiltrated by a cartel and the ‘Mafioso’.

Mumba Malila testified that he had advised against minister Masebo interfering or cancelling the hunting licenses because she was not part of the tender committee that issued the licenses. 

Masebo has not denied ignoring the legal advice from Attorney General Mumba Malila and the Solicitor General Musa Mwenye against the cancellation of the 19 ZAWA Safari hunting concession tender.

She admitted to the tribunal that “former ZAWA board chairman Larry Kalala talked to the Attorney General Mumba Malila over the intention to cancel the tender and his advice was that we should not. He also advised us to seek the advice of the Solicitor general (Musa Mwenye and I spoke to him. He told me that I should not directly get involved but that I should direct the director general to take the action. The tender was cancelled anyway and what I did was government position”.

But Masebo insisted that she consulted President Sata on her decision to fire ZAWA directors Edwin Matokwani, Melody Zeko, Taulino Banda, Rose Chivumba and Andrew Sampa because they failed to apply the PF manifesto as a guide of selecting successful bidders.

Secondly, we are really sorry about vice president, Guy Scott. 

On Tuesday March 4, 2014 Scott testified in the tribunal that Masebo got authority from government to fire directors and cancel duly awarded tenders by ZAWA citing corruption.

Like Masebo, Scott set out to discredit the Zambia Intelligence Service officers or OOP-Special Division as dull. This was in an effort to discredit evidence of a Chief Intelligence Officer who sat on the evaluation committee and testified against Masebo that she cancelled hunting concessions that were transparently awarded.

Scott said Masebo was right to cancel the safari hunting tender in 21 hunting blocs and that the action was not executed in her personal capacity but that this was the government's position.

Claim of government authority in a matter that has litigation implications such as the cancellation of tenders can only be seen to hold if it followed full legal advice of the Attorney General. This was not the case as testified by Attorney General.

It is for this that Scott’s evidence of saying government gave authority lacks credence; his stand as witness defending Masebo cannot be trusted. This is because up to now the Zambian public is yet to make head and tail why Charlotte Scott, his wife, sits on the ZAWA board. Whether it is voluntary as he claims, there is nothing that costs nothing in today’s world. Ms Scott still drinks coffee, uses transport, and travels on the cost of ZAWA budget. Her role must be defined and her interests in our wildlife must be fully explained.

Anyway, when did Guy Scott’s wife become a conservationist? What we know is that before PF came into power Zambia never heard her voice championing conservation or love for the Lions or our Rhinos that were being decimated? If she was a champion of wildlife, Charlotte would have started some society or belonged to the Chongololo Club at least. The reason that all over a sudden she has become a volunteer at ZAWA and not a hospice where we know there are no opportunities for trophy or wealth makes her find it difficult to dodge any insinuations that she and the husband have deep interests in ZAWA—direct or indirect.

PETITIONER: William Harrington
At least former transport and communication minister William Harrington who petitioned the Masebo tribunal has an impeccable interest in wildlife. Harrington chose to be dropped as tourism minister by second republican President Frederick Chiluba when he instructed wildlife scouts to search vehicles of fellow ministers suspected to have been carrying illegal game. You cannot drag a person of Harrington’s position into accusations of belonging to a cartel that is bent at plundering Zambia’s wildlife.

Scott and the wife continued to render moral support to Masebo during the tribunal….they have forever lost their credibility of defending the truth for fearing to break a friendship of convenience.

Now, the headlines that The Post carried on the tribunal are not the ones that can be seen in the same light when it came to the paper covering court cases or tribunal probes in which government ministers stood accused over three years ago.

‘ZAWA Hunting Deals Lacked Credibility’ is one headline that the Post carried and the story went with the following intro:
 “Anti Corruption Commission director Rosewyn Wandi has revealed that that the cancelled safari hunting concessions granted in various Game Management Areas by ZAWA lacked credibility as eligible bidders were unfairly disqualified, Wandi stated in a letter dated March 18, 2013 to tourism permanent secretary (The Post Wednesday March 5, 2014).
This cannot be seen in any other light apart from an attempt by the newspaper to filter information and squeeze the members of the public in a certain frame of mind—Masebo is innocent; justified to fire ZAWA directors and cancel 19 hunting concessions awarded to six companies.

The Post never carried a headline that Attorney General testified against Masebo.
And Masebo cannot deny that she instigated the ACC investigations by giving a report to the ACC that the tender committee offered concession licenses to she claims were members of the same family. 

The Post is not even ashamed that the ACC boss Wandi denies Masebo’s claim.
“Evidence suggests that the elimination of eligible companies at preliminary stage may have been done with probable intent to favour companies connected to [named businessman]. “This is yet to be conclusively ascertained as so far no direct evidence has been established to suggest preferential treatment was given to companies (related to the named businessman]. No evidence has been established to suggest criminality on the part of ZAWA management in as far as the noted irregularities are concerned. However, investigations are continuing to establish criminality if any.”
“Even though, no evidence has so far been established suggesting interlocking directorship and [or] are shareholders among the six companies, the interpretation of the said named bidders possibly enjoying preferential treatment,” Wandi stated.
With this The Post no longer seeks the truth, find it wherever it tries to hide from society and deliver it to enable citizens exert meaningful control on government processes.

Lastly relationships are forever broken in PF. The tribunal has driven that wedge of enmity between vice president Guy Scott and PF Kabwata MP Given Lubinda, between Masebo and Lubinda and, lastly, between Masebo and Kasama PF MP Godfrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM).

Lubinda testified against Masebo and told the tribunal that Scott had instructed him to fire ZAWA director general Edwin Matokwani. Appearing before the tribunal Scott said Lubinda was a liar.
"That is entirely false. I know Matokwani as a professional colleague with my wife in ZAWA. I have high regard for him. I actually intervened not to have him fired. Lubinda was flexible and economical with the truth" [Lubinda lied – Scott, The Post, Wednesday March 5, 2014].  
Again in this story The Post misses the one value of a quality news story—objectivity. Given Lubinda and Guy Scott differed in testimony. But to say that ‘Lubinda Lied’ is to try and give credence to Scott’s evidence supporting Masebo. 

This way of reporting shows how The Post sees Masebo as an ally they cannot discredit in public’s eyes and rather choose to show the public that Given Lubinda is a liar. 

That aside! Disregard his skin colour, Lubinda is a black sheep and disfigures the PF flock. He will never talk and walk alongside Masebo like the two did before. Scott, just as his boss Sata does, sees Lubinda as disloyal individual. Sata once told Zambia’s first President Dr Kenneth Kaunda that Lubinda was not loyal.  The testimony Kabwata MP gave against Masebo worsens Sata’s perception about him. Without a friend to stand with, Lubinda may see himself through the exit door of the ruling party, but if he insists to stay his adoption in 2016 to re-contest his seat on PF is unlikely.

During cross-examination by petitioner’s lawyer at the tribunal, Masebo accused GBM to have concocted a story published by Daily Nation that put her into trouble. “The schemes by the Daily Nation and how they went to former Defense Minister (GBM) to build a case and get me into trouble are known. The Daily Nation has a way of manipulating stories and created a good story for a tribunal to be set. May God save you the cartel,’ Masebo said.
This is how the tribunal investigating Masebo looks like some kind of shit hit the fun.

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