‘IVORY’ diplomats exposed, more suspects arrested – Masebo

Storella (left) and Zim Amb.Wharton with Hon Sylvia Masebo, Zambia minister of tourism
 Storella (left) and Zim Amb.Wharton with Hon Sylvia Masebo, Zambia minister of tourism
Storella (left) and Zim Amb.Wharton with Hon Sylvia Masebo, Zambia minister of tourism

MINISTER of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo says the Ministry of Home Affairs has given police clearance to investigate some diplomats who recently attempted to illegally export ivory to China.
The suspects, whose identity Ms Masebo with-held, were intercepted at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka a fortnight ago and they pleaded diplomatic immunity when they were probed.
Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) board chairperson Guy Robinson  two weeks ago revealed that a team of ZAWA  and Zambia Army officers thwarted an attempt to export 27 kilogrammes of ivory valued at US$140, 000 (about KR742,000).
Ms Masebo made the revelation on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation Sunday Interview that the Ministry of Home Affairs had to give clearance to police for the officers to interrogate the suspects because diplomats have immunity.
“The last arrest which was done at the airport involved some diplomats, so we needed to get some clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs for police to conduct interviews so that they can establish who the owner of the tusks was and where those tusks were going,” she said.
Ms Masebo said police have since commenced investigations into the matter.
“A number of arrests have been made even in other parts of the country, a lot of work has been done by ZAWA officers,” she said.
The minister said poaching is on the increase because the demand for elephant tusks, lion bones and the big five animals has risen.
Ms Masebo said the rising cases of poaching have nothing to do with displacement of settlers in game management areas and cancellation of hunting licences.
And Ms Masebo said preliminary investigations by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) have established that there was no transparency in the manner the bid for hunting licences was evaluated.
Ms Masebo said she is happy with the ACC preliminary report, which has since been handed over to her ministry.
“If we allowed that tender to proceed in that manner, I don’t think it would have been right for this country…I don’t regret making that decision because it was the right one,” she said.
Ms Masebo said some people who have been against her decision to cancel the bid for hunting licences and calling for a tribunal to investigate her are allegedly involved in the existing syndicates in the wildlife sector.
Ms Masebo said the ZAWA board and management have unearthed a number of scams in the wildlife sector and are taking corrective measures.
She said her ministry is putting in place regulations to ensure transparency in the evaluation of bids.
“The decision I took was not easy. I dared the gangsters or the hunting cartels and I have made a lot of enemies. I have remained focused because what I did is right, in good faith and for the good of the country,” she said.
Ms Masebo also said she would soon sign a statutory instrument which will ensure that the people who venture into hunting become more transparent, accountable and responsible.
When contacted to give the identity of the diplomats, Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu declined to comment saying, “this matter is under Minister Masebo’s office…she is the only one who can identify them”.