STEVEN MVULA, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT has abolished the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and taken over management of wildlife.
ZAWA will now exist as a department in the Ministry of Tourism and Arts.
Minister of Tourism and Arts Jean Kapata told Parliament in a ministerial statement yesterday that Government has decided to get back ZAWA in order to save it from numerous financial challenges and to improve its operations.
â€œIn a bid to address the many problems that ZAWA faced, the most acceptable option that was available was to revert wildlife management to Government by the abolition of ZAWA and creation of a department in the Ministry of Tourism and Arts to take over wildlife management,â€ Ms Kapata said.
She said the current ZAWA staff will be taken over and absorbed in the new department unless an individual choose, to be separated.
â€œI wish to assure the House that the implementation of these reforms will not result in any job losses as all the staff will be absorbed in the new department.
â€œI am pleased to inform the House that the wildlife police officers specifically stand to benefit from this policy decision as their remuneration will be improved significantly from their current monthly income of K800 to at least K3, 000 under the terms of the civil service,â€ Ms Kapata said.
The minister explained that at the time of the creation of ZAWA in 1998, the European Union promised to inject not less than US$20 million per year to fund ZAWAâ€™s initial operations, including fully funding a capitalisation plan for field equipment, vehicles, aircraft, firearms and building of staff houses but never honoured its pledge after Zambia disagreed with some conditions attached to the aid.
Ms Kapata explained that ZAWA started operations with no start-up capital resulting in an accumulation of debts amounting to K8 billion as of July last year through non-remittance of statutory obligations to the Zambia Revenue Authority, National Pensions Scheme Authority and other creditors.
She said ZAWA would still have fallen back into the debt trap even if Government assisted the authority to pay off its statutory debt.
â€œThe House may wish to note that failure by ZAWA to pay communities their share of wildlife revenue meant that ZAWA lost the confidence of key partners in wildlife management, namely the chiefs and the local communities to assist them to conserve and patrol the vast wildlife estates,â€ Ms Kapata said
And Ms Kapata said people who have encroached on national parks will soon be removed.
She was responding to a question by Luena member of Parliament Getrude Imenda (ADD) who wanted to know what action Government will take on squatters.
â€œWe will soon remove people from parks. They are there to poach,â€ Ms Kapata said
Ikelenge MP Elijah Muchima (MMD) accused Government of lacking political will in preserving wildlife.
Zambiaâ€™s wildlife protected areas includes 20 national parks, 36 game management areas, one bird sanctuary and two wildlife sanctuaries.
There are, however, only 1,250 wildlife police officers available instead of the required establishment of 3,500.
STEVEN MVULA, Lusaka