TOURISM minister Sylvia Masebo says Zambia's wild animals were being airlifted out of the country without the knowledge of the state.
Justifying the dismissal of Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) director Edwin Matokwani and four others, Masebo yesterday said she would ensure she takes the best action so that the country is protected from plunder.

"My actions were not only precipitated because of this issue. There have been many, many issues.
There are many wrong things that have been going on in ZAWA. Just from yesterday and today, I have received over 300 text messages, over 200 calls from all over Zambia… about what is happening in ZAWA and all these people have said this decision was long overdue and a lot of information is coming on how this country is being plundered. Our natural resources are being plundered.

How planes are flying into this country in all the air strips that are dotted all over some  of these game parks and flying out without being detected by anybody.

So do you think that if I have powers to do something about it, I will be waiting for a long process? I would use the shortest process. It's just that I don't have that power. But there are many wrong things and when you know, your heart would bleed. You would feel sorry for yourself as a Zambian. And you say Zambia is poor and you are unemployed when other people come here to plunder your resources and you even start protecting criminals to your own detriment?'' she asked.

"In fact, I kept them too long. They should have gone the same day I came here if I knew what they were doing. But I didn't know but I am learning with time and many will go.  You should be angry as Zambians that you are not in control of your natural resources and you are sitting there just busy politicking from the day of elections instead of looking at some of these issues."

Masebo said a combined team of security wings had moved to ZAWA headquarters to get the relevant files pertaining to some of the issues that were raised by her ministry so that they could do their investigations.
She said there were a lot of wrong things going on in the country which went unchecked at the expense of the majority poor Zambians.

Masebo said people did a lot of wrong things in the country but went unpunished.
"One thing happening in this country is that people that have been involved in corruption; the government has ended up having even to pay them.

After they have messed us up, after they have plundered, the government has ended up losing double and so the people have ended up being the losers. So you've got to be very, very careful on how issues like these are handled. Secondly, I want you to appreciate that if I did not take the steps I took, maybe at the end of the day, we would not get anything out of this case," she said.

Masebo said in terms of management, she had since put in place an interim management team for administrative purposes and the names would be announced once they received the letters.

"Maybe he Matokwani is right that we unlawfully dismissed him. But let me say this to you; it is always good to give somebody a fair hearing. I think it is important, it is necessary. But sometimes you need to appreciate the nature of the problem and sometimes you are forced to make decisions, action, in order that you don't get dribbled yourself," she said.

Masebo said there was need to use shorter processes when dealing with national issues such as plunder.

"For example, people get deported and I have heard people complain that there are too many deportations. Sometimes you should ask yourself the question, why should we spend so much money as a country on somebody that you all know has been doing things that are illegal in the country and you want to waste time to use a long process when the law allows you to use a shorter process. And why should we do that?

And from our past history as a country, that is what we have been doing. The state has been losing money, they go to court… sometimes files end up missing, witnesses are tampered with, and people get away scot-free,'' Masebo said.
Matokwani on Monday described the corruption allegations raised against him by Masebo as unfounded and untrue.

Matokwani, who was fired by Masebo on Sunday for alleged irregularities in the awarding of safari hunting licences, said in an interview that he was clean and ready to be probed by the ACC.

And Masebo said the ministry had lined up a number of construction programmes, starting this month, in preparation for the UNWTO general assembly.
She said the old Zimbabwe market had been demolished and marketeers relocated to other places.

The toilets will be constructed at Mukuni Park Trust, old bus stop and Livingstone City Council premises. The tender for the same will be awarded on January 4, 2013, she said.

Masebo said the Immigration Department had procured and would instal equipment at new facilities at the border posts.
She urged artists to be creative and come up with songs that would help market the country.