Minister of Tourism Ronald Chitotela says he is aware that some quarters of society have decided to fight all the strong people around President Edgar Lungu so that when they fall, enemies can take shots at the Head of State.

And Chitotela has explained that (before his appointment to the ministry) 132 wild animals were sold to businessman Valden Findlay’s son, Harry, saying government has adopted a policy of empowering private sector participation in the tourism industry.

Meanwhile, Chitotela says his ministry has asked the Luapula Province Police Commissioner to summon the whistle-blower, Nsama Musonda Learns, who reported that 80 black Lechwes had gone missing in the Bangweulu Wetlands so that she can provide some evidence.

Chitotela was speaking during Hot FM’s Hot Breakfast Show, Tuesday.

Asked whether he felt public opinion that the Ministry of Tourism had started being involved in scandals since he was transferred there, Chitotela said he was aware that some people were trying to fight him with the corruption tag.

“I think 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 an unfortunate situation where it ended up in court. The maters 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. In court, I was arrested for the offense that happened in the Ministry of Works and Supply between January 2016 and 29th July 2016. I was appointed on 29 September. 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,” Chitotela lamented.

“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. 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 said strong PF members like deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri, Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo and Justice Minister Given Lubinda were targets of President Lungu;s enemies.

“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 [Stephen] Kampyongo, the other day honorable [Given] Lubinda, the other day it Jean Kapata, the other day it is Dr Chitalu [Chilufya], the other days it is Mumbi Phiri the other day it is Prof [Nkandu] 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’,” Chitotela said.

“We cannot continue allowing people to alarm the nation. You cannot just stand on the anthill and say a ‘thief, a thief’ with a view to tarnish honourable Chitotela’s reputation. I have children, I have people who look up to me, you can’t be accusing me of wrong things.”

And netizens went wild yesterday when a letter authorising the capture of 132 animals by Findlay went viral on social media.

The letter was dated March 25, 2019 and signed by Chitotela’s predecessor, Charles Banda.

“This letter serves as a capture permit granted to Harry Findaly of Langani Game Ranch to capture the following items: 50 black lechewes from the Bangweulu Game management area, 50 Impalas from Kafue National Park, 20 buffaloes from Kafue National Park,10 Rian Antelope from Kafue National Park, 2 male Giraffes from Mosi O Tunya National Park,” read the letter in part.

When asked to comment on this letter, Chitotela said government had decided to enhance private sector participation in the tourism industry as a strategy to fight poaching.

“Government through the Seventh National Development Plan, and wildlife plan, there has been a deliberation promotion that how are we going to promote private participation in tourism sector in Zambia. And how are we going to reduce poaching so that we promote more of game meat than bush meat. A game meat is a meat that is ranched by a private sector. So government sells animals to the private people with a view to preserve. What happens is that, when you buy game animals from government into a private ranch, you will be able to provide security, you will be able to employ your own game rangers, the scouts to take care of those animals, until the animals are breeding. Each year, you pay an annual subscription to the Department of the Wildlife,” he explained.

“If you want to crop so that you maintain the manageable number, you again apply for authority from the Department of Wildlife. Again, they will charge you to pay. And that is the game meat you are finding in supermarkets. So that Zambians can have an opportunity to buy their game meat. And that way, we discourage illegal poaching of bush meat. Because if you don’t provide for people, they will go illegally and begin poaching. So with a view to promote sustainable tourism and engagement of the private sector in the management of wildlife, government came up with a policy to promote private ranching so that Zambians and non-Zambians interested in game ranching can participate in this program.”

Meanwhile, Chitotela said his ministry had asked Luapula police to summon the whistleblower who was reporting that 80 black lechwes were missing from the Bangeulu Wetlands.

“We are excited even me as minister, I am interested in knowing the truth because from the time I announced the suspension of the live capture, I had issued specific instruction. 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 the 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 and get more details. Because where 80 live capture of lechwes is happening, obviously there must be vehicles, there must be people to capture. I can assure the Zambian people that from the time I was appointed as minister, I have never signed any license for animal capture,” Chitotela said.

When reminded that Nsama had put it on record that the Tourisim Ministry had issued some permits for animal movement, Chitotela said it was his predecessor, Banda, who had signed.

“Yes, that is why I am saying that that permit was issued by my predecessor in the case of Mfuwe, after my investigations, because there were other issues that involved administrative dealing. And 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 lechwes missing, obviously for me to begin maybe penalizing my director, or those that are under the Bangweulu wetlands management in Mpika, and to clarify it is not in Luapula Province it is in Mpika under senior chief Kopa and Chundamponde,” said Chitotela.