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Zambia: Prosecution witness in Masebo case says corruption should get a minister concerned


Sunday Post

By Namatama Mundia   |   Updated: Aug. 22, 2015

A PUBLIC procurement expert on Thursday testified in the Sylvia Masebo abuse of office trial that a government minister should get concerned when something goes wrong in a ministry.

Testifying before Lusaka magistrate Ireen Wishimanga, in a case where Masebo is facing allegations of cancelling wildlife hunting concessions and dissolution of ZAWA management whilst serving as tourism minister, Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health head of procurement, Kenneth Mapani also said the public procurement law does not say the minister had no role in procurement issues.

Mapani, who until March 30 was the principal officer-in-charge of inspections and standards at the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA), told court during cross-examination by defence lawyer Robert Simeza that he was ignorant on how the ZAWA issue started and ended.

He said he never played a role in the ZAWA procurement process and did not follow the proceedings concerning the case.

Mapani said a procurement process could be cancelled, adding that that was why he referred the ACC officers that approached him on October 8, 2014 wanting to get clarity on the procurement of hunting concessions as well as the applicable process in procuring such a service, to section 22 and Regulation 24.

Mapani earlier testified during evidence-in-chief led by ACC prosecutor Boniface Chiwala that the process was supposed to be advertised in the public media to would-be bidders.

“I drew them [ACC officers] to section 22 (1) F of the Public Procurement Act of 2008 as well as regulation 24 of the Public Procurement regulation of 2011. I further did indicate that what the Act and Regulation indicate is that such a mandate is vested in the approvals authority,” he said.

Mapani explained that the approvals authority was an individual or board that grant prior authorisation before any award is undertaken in public procurement matters.

Asked if a Minister of Tourism and Arts had authority to cancel a tender, Mapani said such cancellations were vested in the approvals authority.

“The honourable minister does not have a role in procurement proceedings, including the aspect of cancellation,” Mapani said.

He said the approvals authority under ZAWA was the procurement committee and the chief executive officer.

But during cross-examination, Mapani agreed that the law was silent on the role of a minister in procurement.

Further put to him that the law does not say that the minister had no role in procurement, Mapani again said that was correct.

Asked what he would expect a minister to do if something was going wrong in the ministry, Mapani said he would expect a minister to be concerned.

When told that a minister was not a passenger in the ministry or a ceremonial person who would just watch corruption take place, Mapani responded that a minister was part of the ministry and in that sense would be interested to know what was going on.

The state did not re-examine Mapani and the matter was adjourned to September 15.

Count one alleges that Masebo, between December 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013, in Lusaka, being tourism and arts minister, abused the authority of her office by cancelling the procurement process of tender number ZAWA/DG/002/2/12 for hunting concessions without following laid down procurement procedures, an act which was arbitrary and prejudicial to the rights or interests of the government.

In count two, it is alleged that Masebo, during the same period, in Lusaka and while serving in the same capacity, abused the authority of her office by terminating contracts of employment for senior officers employed by the Zambia Wildlife Authority without following laid down disciplinary procedure, an act which was arbitrary and prejudicial to the rights and interests of the government and other persons.

And after court adjourned, Masebo, in the company of UPND vice-president Dr Canisius Banda, addressed a huge crowd of supporters that turned to offer her solidarity outside the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court Complex.

Masebo said people were concentrating on wrong things.

“So you can see that people are concentrating on wrong things; instead of fixing the blackouts, tavutika ma light kulibe mu mayadi yathu, bathu basiliza time witch-hunting and prosecuting or persecuting political opponents,” said Masebo.

THE NEW SNAKE OIL? The violence, threats, and false promises driving rapid palm oil expansion in Liberia.


Global Witness

July 23, 2015

Urgent reforms needed to protect citizens and regulate plantation companies.

As Liberia emerges as a new frontier market for the cheapest, most popular vegetable oil globally, Liberians report being beaten, threatened, and arrested for taking a stand against one of the world’s biggest palm oil plantations in the southeast of the country.

State officials are said to be helping the palm oil company Golden Veroleum (GVL) harass communities into signing away their land and crush dissent. Global Witness reveals how GVL accelerated its operations at the peak of Liberia’s 2014 Ebola outbreak, holding meetings with hundreds of people and encouraging illiterate citizens to sign away their land rights when community support groups were staying home for risk of contagion. At this time GVL almost doubled the size of its plantation.

This behaviour hasn’t discouraged the world’s major banks from offering their services. Standard Chartered, HSBC, and Citibank alone hold shares in GVL’s parent company – Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) – worth nearly US$ 1.5 billion.

The case of GVL risks becoming the first chapter of a longer narrative of dispossession and abuse. Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has made agriculture a central pillar of the country’s development strategy, making repeated – yet so far unfulfilled – public assurances that palm oil will lift poverty in rural areas. In response to early protests at GVL’s plantation she called those who spoke out against the company “unpatriotic” as they risked discouraging future investors.

Hear from communities about signing deals with GVL, called Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs).

GVL has bought the rights to convert 2,600 km2 of southeast Liberia into an oil palm estate – an area the size of London and Barcelona combined. Its contract is valid for up to 98 years, affecting some 41,000 people.

Public meetings where landowners were encouraged to hand over their land to GVL were watched over by powerful local officials, and in at least one case armed police. Global Witness also documents several accounts of violent assaults and arbitrary arrests of those who voiced their concerns.

The benefits offered by GVL to communities in return have been negligible. Those willing to work for the company are promised access to free medical support and schools. For non-employees, the most tangible negotiated benefits Global Witness could find evidence of were six toilets.

The violence and intimidation documented in Liberia parallels a disturbing global trend of increased attacks on human rights activists who protect the environment and defend their land. Activists are being killed in record numbers, threatened and criminalised for standing in the way of so-called ‘development’. 

Ten percent of Liberia is now earmarked for agricultural plantations – an area three times the size Beijing. This rapid expansion is taking place in a legal vacuum. There are no laws in Liberia to govern how agriculture companies should be awarded contracts, how they should operate, or how they will be held to account.

Global Witness is calling on Liberia’s government to investigate acts of violence, pass a law recognising that rural communities own their land, and regulate the country’s agriculture sector to bring an end to the impunity enjoyed by plantation companies.

Watch the rate of GVL expansion in Liberia from 2011 – 2015 here.  

GVL and GAR have denied wrongdoing. GVL stated that it has played no part in the intimidation of community members in its plantation area and that its operations between August and October 2014 – when the Ebola outbreak was at its peak – were part of its long-term plan. GAR has acknowledged that its operations have experienced “challenges” but that it is working to improve its procedures. Representatives of HSBC and Citibank stated that its shares in GAR are held “in custody” for other ultimate (beneficial) shareholders.

Read full responses from GVL here and here, from GAR here. Communication from one of GAR’s investors Kopernick Global Investors, can be found here.

Read The New Snake Oil report here

Download the press release here 

FIND OUT MORE

Alice Harrison, Communications Adviser

aharrison@globalwitness.org

+44(0)7841 338792

U.S. Company Linked to Refugee Abuses In Tanzania


CorpWatch

By  Pratap Chatterjee

July 10th, 2012

AgriSol, an Iowa company, has been linked to plans to evict 160,000 Burundian refugees from Katumba and Mishamo in western Tanzania, according to “Lives on Hold,” a new report by the Oakland Institute.

Kilimo Kwanza which translates as “Agriculture First” is a recent Tanzanian government initiative to promote a “greener revolution” through agricultural modernization and commercialization via public-private partnerships. The program was launched in August 2009 by Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete.

Enter Agrisol Energy LLC’s – an Iowa-based investment company that specializes in agribusiness. The company’s goal is to find “underdeveloped global locations that have attractive natural resources but lack best-in-class agricultural technology, farming techniques, equipment and management.” The company opened talks with the government to start large-scale crop cultivation, beef and poultry production, and biofuel production in three “abandoned refugee camps” – Lugufu in Kigoma province (25,000 hectares) and Katumba (80,317 hectares) and Mishamo (219,800 hectares), according to company business plans.

2011 investigation by the Oakland Institute,  a California based NGO, revealed that the refugee camps were not abandoned but very much occupied by Burundian refugees who have lived in the area for 40 years.

Agrisol does not deny this. Henry Akona, AgriSol Tanzania’s director of communications, says that the company officials were initially told that plans had been made to move the refugees from the settlements. “We were considering those areas a few years ago, but we have suspended any plans because the land is occupied,” Akona told the Daily Iowan. “We should have done better homework.”

Oakland Institute profiled Sembuli Masasa, the father of seven children, who had been farming in Katumba for 39 years who told researchers: “They are giving us $200, ask us to dismantle our own house and to move to a place we have never seen before.”

“Initially promised citizenship, the residents still await their papers, conditional on them vacating their homes and lands in order to make way for the foreign investor,” says Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute. “The residents have been banned from cultivating crops including perennial crops such as cassava or building new homes and businesses, leaving them with no other option but to consider moving.”

The new report alleges human rights abuses of the refugees “which range from the burning down of houses and crops and violation of their freedom of speech to inequities in social services.”

Akona disputes charges that the company is responsible for the fate of the Burundians. “AgriSol has absolutely nothing to do with the refugees in Katumba and Mishamo,” he told the Daily Iowan.

The Oakland Institute report has created a storm in Iowa, notably for Bruce Rastetter, CEO of AgriSol Energy who worked with Iowa State University‘s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in Ames, Iowa, to get support for the deal.

Faced with growing questions, the university pulled out in February 2012

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a community group in Des Moines, Iowa, has filed an official conflict of interest complaint against Rastetter with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, and are lobbying for Bruce Rastetter to be removed as Iowa Board of Regents President Pro Tem.

The Tanzania project is part of a new phenomenon that activists are calling “land grabbing.” GRAIN, a global agricultural think tank based in Barcelona, estimates that at least 50 million hectares of good agricultural land – enough to feed 5 million families in India – have been transferred from farmers to corporations in the last few years alone.

Economists say that governments have to be very careful about inviting corporations to manage vast swathes of land in poor countries. “If it’s done properly, and if African governments take care of their countries and their populations, this can be a big benefit,” says Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University told Dan Rather reports. “If they in effect give away these valuable resources, then what happens is these scarce resources benefit some other part of the world. And Africa is left even worse off than it was before.”

Africa land deals lead to water giveaway


guardian.co.uk

By Mark Tran

June 12, 2012

Africa heads for ‘hydrological suicide’ as land deals hand water resources to foreign firms, threatening environmental disaster.

Millions of people will lose access to traditional sources of water because of “land grabs” in Africa, according to a report on Monday that looks behind the scramble for farmland in Africa.

The report: Squeezing Africa dry: behind every land grab is a water grab, shows how land deals, covering millions of acres of fertile lands, also pose a threat to Africa’s fresh water systems.

“If these land grabs are allowed to continue, Africa is heading for a hydrological suicide,” said Henk Hobbelink, co-ordinator of Grain, a group that backs small farmers.

The report – the latest to raise the alarm over competition for scarce water resources – said all land deals in Africa involve large-scale industrial agriculture operations that will consume massive amounts of water, could rob millions of people of their access to water and risk the depletion of the continent’s most precious water sources.

Grain cites the Nile and Niger river basins as two examples of the “giveaway” of land and water rights. Three of the bigger countries in the Nile basis – Ethiopia, South Sudan and Egypt – have already leased out millions of hectares in the basin. Citing figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Grain said these made clear that recent land deals vastly outstrip water availability in Nile basis.

According to Grain, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Egypt already have irrigation infrastructures in place for 5.4 million hectares (13 million acres) of land and have now leased out a further 8.6 million hectares of land.

“This would require much more water than what is available now in the entire Nile basin and would amount to no less than hydrological suicide,” said the report.

In the Niger river basin, independent experts believe Mali has the water capacity to irrigate only 250,000 hectares. Yet, said Grain, the Malian government has already signed over 470,000 hectares to foreign companies from Libya, China, the UK, Saudi Arabia and other countries in recent years, virtually all of it in the Niger basin.

Grain said the secrecy around land deals makes it hard to know exactly what is being handed over to foreign companies, but from those contracts leaked or made public, it is clear they tend not to contain any specific mention of water rights, leaving the companies free to build dams and irrigation canals at their discretion…Read more.

Mali opposition party demands land lease details


Old bridge in Bamako, Mali
Image via Wikipedia

The Associated Press February 10, 2011 by Martin Vogl

Bamako, Mali

An opposition party in Mali wrote to the country’s president demanding that details of contracts leasing out massive areas of agricultural land be made public. In the letter shared with The Associated Press Wednesday, the Party for  National Renaissance said since 2003 almost 2 million acres of farm land have been leased out in secret contracts to Chines, Libyan and South African firms…Bakary Kante, an adviser to the Malian prime minister on agricultural issues, said the government has been promoting private investment because multinationals can afford to finance-much-needed infrastructure for the country. Read more

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