And Ministry of Tourism and Arts permanent secretary Amos Malupenga has refuted reports that 80 Black Lechwes are missing in the Bangweulu Wetlands.
There have been reports that 80 Black Lechwes have gone missing the Bangweulu Wetlands, according to a statement by Northern Circuit conservationist Nsama Kearns.
However, the Minister has expressed ignorance over the claims when he featured on a Hot FM programme on Tuesday morning, saying he is interested to know the truth about the claims as the government had issued strict instructions against live capture of animals from national parks to either private game ranches or other parks.
“I am interested in knowing the truth because from the time I announced the suspension of the live capture, I had issued specific instructions. No more movements of live animals from the National Parks either to private or to any other park. And there can never be any movement without the signature of the minister. So when I saw that issue, the PS said we are not aware so we called the Department of Wildlife and they said ‘sir, there has never been any movement’. And through our investigations, we discovered that there is a lady called Nsama who lives in Luapula Province in Mansa. So we were interested and we requested the police commissioner for Luapula Province to call Nsama to give more details. Because where 80 live capture of Lechews is happening, obviously there must be vehicles, there must be people to capture. So she will provide us with information to know how the animals were moved and who did the count to see that 80 are missing,” Mr Chitotela explained. “And to put the record straight, there is this misconception that Luapula Province. Bangweulu Wetlands boarder with Luapula but the National Park which is run by the African Park and the President of the African Park is Prince Harry. So to raise that serious alarm, also it creates interest in the British government. It creates interest in the operators of the African Park. Where the Americans also have interest because Tudor Jones is a partner in the African Park. We can’t just have people standing up and posting on the social media to say 80 Black Lechews are missing without providing information. I can assure the Zambian people that from the time I was appointed as minister, I have never signed any license for animal capture.”
He said the claims that 80 Black Lechwes had gone missing were malicious and meant to undermine the government of President Edgar Lungu.
“It is just people bent on malicious assassination of the PF administration under President Lungu. Where 80 animals are missing, there could be maybe four, five trucks that are picking. In Eastern Province in Mfuwe National Park in particular, the 50 buffaloes that were to be moved, you saw the number of trucks that went there and people saw,” Mr Chitotela said.
He recalled that a permit was earlier issued by his predecessor, Charles Banda, in March this year for the capture of animals.
“That permit was issued by my predecessor in the case of Mfuwe. After my investigations because there were other issues that involved administrative dealing…we have done a lot of changes at Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) in Chilanga. I had to issue the suspension so that we get to know. As you may be aware, me and the Permanent Secretary (PS) are new at the ministry. But this information of 80 Black Lechews missing, obviously for me to begin maybe penalizing my director, or those that are under the Bangweulu Wetlands management in Mpika, and to clarify that it is not in Luapula Province, it is in Mpika under senior chief Kopa and Chundamponde. So I need to understand who moved to capture these vehicles and what are the number plates of these vehicles. And in Zambia, we only have three specialized live capture of animals. How were the animals moved? It is because obviously, I have developed interest, even the President has developed interest to see how these animals, 80 of them, can move without the authority of the minister,” Mr Chitotela said.
And Mr Chitotela, in response to a question about public sentiments that wrong things had started happening in the tourism ministry since he moved there, said there are people determined to destroy his reputation.
“From the time I faced legal issues in court, I have not spoken. I have kept quiet. At times I wonder. The time I was in infrastructure, I faced unfortunate situation where it ended up in court. The matters that happened before I became a minister. I had a different case court running and I had a different case in the social media running…I was acquitted by the courts, nobody has come out to state the truth. I was transferred to the Ministry of Tourism, the enemies have not stopped fighting. The people that are determined to paint or destroy Chitotela I know they have not stopped. So they have been trying everything possible. Immediately I entered the Ministry, even before I could sit down, ati ‘no, he is capturing the animals in Mfuwe. I was so shocked,” Mr Chitotela said. “After investigations, I found that my predecessor Charles Banda signed the capturing and I said what was the motive for people to do this? I was told by one of my friends in the opposition that people are saying among the strong people that are standing with President Lungu is Chitotela and we must make sure he falls. We must weaken PF by targeting the strong people around President Lungu. And that is the agenda they are driving. You saw how I was vilified, called corrupt, arrested, accused, taken to court for things I never did. Things that happened before I became a minister. I move in the ministry even before I entered the door, they said he has stolen the animals.”
He advised Zambians against alarming the nation.
“You cannot just stand from on the anthill and say a ‘thief, a thief’ with a view to tarnish honorable Chitotela’s reputation. I have children,” said Mr Chitotela.
“This could be a ‘wolf wolf wolf’ or somebody bent on destroying Chitotela. I was just speaking to a colleague among the PF and I said look, If you are targeting the strong people around President Lungu, that today Chitotela must fall, tomorrow it’s Kampyongo, the other day honorable Lubinda, the other day it Jean Kapata, the other day it is Dr Chitalu, the other day it is Mumbi Phiri, the other day it is Prof Luo, the other day it is this one. After you kill everybody, then you go for President Edgar Lungu because that is the target they have.”
And speaking during a media briefing this afternoon, Mr Malupenga explained that Dr Banda, the former minister, in March this year issued a capture permit for 50 Black Lechwe to Langani Game Ranch in Kazungula and 30 Black Lechwe to Kwisoko Game Farm in Lusaka.
He said with that the authorization, the animals were captured and translocated to the two farms on 10th September 2019.
Mr. Malupenga said the Department of National Parks and Wildlife’s Research and Veterinary Unit had earlier carried out an ecological assessment at these establishments to ensure that they were habitable by the species.