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A corruption scandal in the traditional Fipa territory recently resulted in disciplinary action being taken against numerous officials. Dr. Hamisi Kigwangalla, Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism of Tanzania, suspended 27 game rangers and officers after hearing complaints at a village meeting.

Hamisi Kigwanggalla, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism for Tanzania

Hamisi Kigwanggalla, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism for Tanzania (Photo by Dr. Kigwangalla in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

According to a report on July 9 in a Tanzanian news service, Kigwangalla suspended Lackson Mwamezi, the acting manager of the Uwanda Forest, after attending a public rally at Kilyamatundu village. The villagers accused the officials and game rangers of requiring bribes from owners of livestock for permission to graze their animals in the forest. He was told that the rangers and officials were requiring payments of 6 to 7 million Tanzanian shillings (U.S. $2,600 – $3,000) for permission to graze their cattle in the forest lands. Fishermen who wanted to use illegal fishing gear in the Rukwa River had to bribe the officers 100,000 shillings ($44) to do so.

The news report named one of the accusers. Shija Imeli alleged that the game rangers had required a payment of 6,000,000 shillings from him so he could graze his cattle in the forest lands for 5 months. He said that he had paid 5,800,000 but the rangers confiscated his cattle until he had paid the additional 200,000 they required.

Results of overgrazing in the Rukwa plains on the southeastern side of the lake

Results of overgrazing in the plains on the southeastern side of Lake Rukwa (Photo by Lichinga in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

Kigwangalla gave the villagers 30 days to remove their cattle from the forest. He directed the government’s Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau to investigate the allegations of the villagers. Pending the results of that investigation, he asked the director of the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority, Dr. James Walkaibara, to recruit new game rangers.

A story in the same news source three days earlier provided more background information. Evidently, Dr. Kigwangalla had received a report from the Sumbawanga District Commissioner, Khalfani Haule, that the number of cattle grazing in the Uwanda Forest had significantly increased to at least 12,000 head. Kigwangalla had ordered the suspension of the forest reserve manager for the Sumbawanga District, Mark Chuwa, as a result. The minister was disappointed that local forest officials had failed to find an effective solution to the problem of excessive grazing in the forest lands.