Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dark deeds in darkest Africa…by I.P.A. Manning

The issuing of a deportation order by the Zambian Minister of Home Affairs for the summary removal of a significant foreign conservation investor in Zambia, Ross Michelson, is cause for concern. He has allegedly – according to the Immigration Department, contravened the immigration laws on a number of occasions, though as the owner of a game ranch, a hunting safari company and a water drilling company it is unlikely that his immigration and investor status is the reason for Government wanting him out. I am reminded unpleasantly here of the dark days of the Kaunda regime when people were sent packing on the whim of an official.

Michelson, the former Chairman of the Game Producers’ Association of Zambia, has made a significant contribution to the nurturing of the game ranching industry in Zambia. His problem is that he has locked horns with a powerful grouping of anti-western elements, as have I, who have used their political muscle to have him removed, leaving the field free to take his game ranch and his hunting company, doubtless soon to be issued to one of the grouping, ‘administratively’.

The pressure has been relentless: the reporting to State House by one of the anti group that he, I, a senior member of the main opposition party and two others had met for lunch to plot the overthrow of the ruling party and the destruction of the maize stocks of Zambia; Chief Nyalugwe (where Michelson’s ranch is located, and where my hunting company operates) being taken by one of the anti group to see the Director General of the Zambia Wildlife Authority(ZAWA) to ask him to close us down, then on to State House where he made a request of the President for our deportation on the grounds that we had been calling animals with ‘louder speakers’. Then Michelson had his hunting concession closed down without due legal process, again on the grounds of calling animals with loud speakers, and of overshooting his hunting quota by one animal, none of them proven or sufficient grounds to take such draconian action; and his brother, Greg, had his professional hunters’ license removed – again without due process being followed. Of course, Michelson obtained an injunction and got the area back, but letters have appeared on hunting websites in America and South Africa, with contradictory statements made by ZAWA, and damage done to his business and Zambia. Of course, he, like I, have complained to the Americans and South African market, which is our right to do. But the Minister in charge of tourism and wildlife has taken exception to these e-mails, warning the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Safari Club International that some operators are up to no good, calling at the same time for the Americans to allow the import of ivory from sport hunting – something we have all opposed. And on the 3rd January he said that those foreign operators who continued to criticize Government, would be asked to leave the country. And what do the anti group say now; the notice is in the post, they will say, bwana!

All of this is part of a resurgence of anti-foreign investor bashing – not so much against the big chaps (who did what Rhodes’ emissaries did years earlier) with their mines which pollute but are not fined, but against us little chaps with our safari companies and our worn out gari-motos dealing with the wild-horse exchange rate mechanism, fuel shortages and fuel price increases unhinged from reality, threats by Government and opposition alike to send us to join the 12,000 suffering buggers in the Lusaka jail for crimes of casualization of labour, and threats of deportation by the Immigration Department if we don’t provide the full $500,000 now required to have our self-employed permits renewed – a totally illegal edict.

What is going on here? From where floweth this spring of antipathy?

The time is long past for donors, particularly our own mother countries, to say enough is enough: if you take our aid, if you agree to the proposals of the Commission for Africa and if you accept the debt write-off offered by our countries at the Gleneagles G8 meeting, then certain standards are required. And don’t call us imperialists; don’t lay the blame on the West for the corruption which places Zimbabwe and Zambia in the top 11 most corrupt places on earth, don’t blame the West for the poverty caused by poor governance – horrifyingly revealed in the Transparency International Zambia facilitated analysis of the Auditor-General’s reports which found that, since independence, only 16% of national government expenditure went on health, education, agriculture and local government, and that over the last 20 years almost a years’ worth of that expenditure was stolen or unaccounted for. And what about the fact that more was spent on traditional ceremonies than on agriculture; that 38% went on Presidential state visits. It is time for some honesty and truth.

I.P.A. Manning
Mbeza Safaris Ltd
Corporate Member: Business Action for Africa

No comments: