ZAWA fires ‘whistle blowers’

Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) has embarked on a vengeance programme of purging employees perceived to be leaking damaging corruption related information to the Judge Rhoyda Kaoma led Tribunal that was investigating former Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo and has so far fired three officials without giving reasons.

One of the three fired officers is Leah Chisha Matokwani, wife of the former ZAWA director general Edwin Matokwani who along with his subordinate directors was fired by Masebo.

The witch hunt at ZAWA is likely to continue and information obtained by the Daily Nation reveal that the employees are working under extreme fear as there are signs that more would be fired so that the authority could employ cadres and people who were loyal to the ruling party.

Efforts to get a comment from ZAWA acting director general Xen Vlahakis who was one of the witnesses for Masebo failed as he terminated all the phone calls from the author. A short messaging system (SMS) to him was not responded to.

The other two who were fired were Andrew Izias Phiri, manager Game Management Areas (GMAs) and Vivien Saiwana who was a procurement officer.

The three officers were fired on suspicion that they were leaking information to Matokwani and other former ZAWA directors.

Matokwani confirmed to the Daily Nation that his wife Leah Chisha Matokwani received her letter of termination of contract last week and that no reasons were given for her sudden dismissal.

Matokwani said his wife was already working for ZAWA when he met her and wondered why Vlahakis in collusion with some senior government officials in the Patriotic Front (PF) government had continued their witch hunt against citizens perceived to be fighting the regime.

“I can confirm that three more people have been fired and no reasons have been given for the termination of their contracts. Among the three who received their dismissal letters is my wife Leah Chisha Matokwani. The others are Andrew Phiri, the manager GMA and Vivien Sainana who was a procurement officer. This is nothing but witch hunt and these people have been fired because they were being suspected of leaking information to the public and the media. People are now working under fear because there is a possibility that more could be fired,” Matokwani said.

Some officers have told the Daily Nation that the working environment at ZAWA had become politically frightening and not conducive as the current management was victimizing employees who were against the corruption and abuse of office going on at the authority.

Last week, the Daily Nation exposed a financial scam in which Vlahakis authorized an irregular payment of K42 499 80 to Ndozo Lodge for the upkeep and accommodation for three chiefs and their retainers who were the witnesses for Masebo in the Judge Rhoyda Kaoma led Tribunal.

Phiri was one of the many witnesses for Masebo and was the one who originated an internal memorandum to director conservation and management seeking a budget to host chiefs Jumbe of Mambwe district, Musungwa of Itezhi Tezhi district and Chikwa of Chama district.

The K42 499 80 budget  was also meant to cater for Edwin Ngulube, and Roy Mutelele who were chairpersons of Community Resource Boards (CRBs) from different parts of the country.

According to officers from ZAWA, Phiri was fired because he authored an internal memorandum which was leaked to the public.

ZAWA single sourced Ndozo Lodge where the chiefs and their retainers were booked, and to cover the breach of procurement procedures, Manus Simwanza who is the current head of procurement unit directed that two extra quotations be collected from some unknown lodges as justification for the single sourcing.

And according to a tax invoice from Ndozo Lodge, ZAWA paid K42 499 80 for the three chiefs, their retainers and CRBs who were witnesses for Masebo who was appearing before the Judge Kaoma Tribunal in her personal capacity.