Government is a Handmaid to Corruption - MP Sikota

Article appearing in The Post of Zambia 05-08-2003 with kind thanks

THIS government is a handmaid to corruption, opposition UPND Livingstone Member of Parliament Sakwiba Sikota has charged.

Reacting to African Parks chief executive Paul van Vlissingen's statement that he was a wealthy man, Sikota yesterday said government has betrayed Zambians over the parks.

Sikota said until the last minute, government had denied nothing had happened to the two national parks - Liuwa and Sioma-Ngwezi, in terms of leasing. He said what was more annoying was that only last week, tourism minister Patrick Kalifungwa assured members of parliament that nothing would happen over the matter and told them not to listen to what was being reported in the press about the two parks.

"The handmaid to corruption is secrecy. We have just seen this government is a handmaid to corruption," charged Sikota. He said people had all the time wanted to be consulted over the parks and to understand exactly what it was Vlissingen wanted from the parks.

Sikota wondered who had received favours from Vlissingen and decided that the people from Western Province did not matter. Sikota said what transpired over the two parks was the crime of the century and that the investor must know he was most unwelcome by the nature of his dealing. "He should have consulted the people and their representatives.

The Zambian people also want the Task Force to go in to see who received what from the investor, all must be interviewed," he said. Sikota said government must explain why it saw it fit that people's heritage should be given away just like that.

Sikota said Vlissingen should be aware that everything he was doing in the two national parks were in bad faith because if they were not, all could have been conducted in a transparent manner.

He said Vlissingen should take his riches elsewhere because the people of Barotseland were more concerned about their heritage and natural resources. "He is even insulting us when he talks about his riches and what he is going to give. He probably got his riches by exploiting Africa's natural resources. This is not a thing to even brag about," Sikota said.

He said this was modern day re-colonisation and exploitation of Zambians and that the project should be resisted by all. "This is a fight I am not going to relent on. It's just the beginning. If it means taking this to the international courts, we will do just that because people have a right to their heritage," he said. Vlissingen on Sunday said he wanted to give part of his wealth back to Africa.

"I have absolutely no grudge against anybody who has raised questions on this project," he said. Vlissingen said he had realised that not all white people have had a good record with investments in Zambia. But Kalifungwa in an interview said government had been straight over the two parks and that he had not betrayed the members of parliament because consultations were still on-going.

He said he has since written to Senanga UPND member of parliament Albert Situmbeko who is chairman of the parliamentary committee on tourism and natural resources informing him he would meet them on August 8, 2003 to discuss the issue. "I am still consulting the members of parliament from Western Province," he said.

Kalifungwa dismissed Sikota's reaction as wild because he had not consulted him. He said he had instituted a technical committee to carry-out consultations in the national parks but that the initial report they brought was not satisfactory and had to return to them.

"I didn't believe the report was conclusive and I have sent them back to the parks," he said. Kalifungwa said if Vlissingen indicates he was going into the national parks now, then he did not know what he was going there for because consultations have not been concluded.

He said African Parks wanted to launch their project this year but he refused them until consultations were concluded. Sikota said he was wildly mad on behalf of the people because government seemed to have lied.

He called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the matter where all parties would be called to give evidence.