Safari operator sues council over hunting tender irregularities

By NQOBANI NDLOVU

Tsholotsho Rural District Council (TRDC) has, for the second time, been dragged to the High Court by a safari operator, who is accusing it of deliberately flouting procurement regulations in awarding an elephant hunting concession tender to a rival company.

TRDC in March called for bids for a joint elephant hunting concession in Tsholotsho North constituency, which it awarded to Matupula Hunters, a decision that was challenged at the High Court by Lodzi Hunters and Safaris, citing irregularities.

Now, another safari operator which also bid for the same concession, Sitatunga Zimbabwe, has filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court
seeking a ruling overturning TRDC’s decision to award the tender to Matupula.

In his court papers, Sitatunga Zimbabwe director Goldwater Lukuta sought an interdict directing TRDC to cancel the tender it awarded to Matupula, citing
irregularities in the whole tendering and procurement process in line with the country’s procurement laws of public assets.

“First and second respondents have, thus, contracted illegally to dispose of public assets by private treaty in circumstances where it is intended to shut out
competition by other interested bidders. The two respondents have contracted outside the prescripts of the national procurement law, with intent to defeat the
very purpose and ends of that law,” Lukuta said in his founding affidavit.

Sitatunga Zimbabwe, through its lawyer Nqobani Sithole of Ncube Attorneys, cited TRDC, Matupula Hunters and the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe
(Praz) as the first, second and third respondents, respectively.

Lukuta argued that TRDC had no reason to go against a Praz ruling, which cancelled the tender it had awarded to Matupula Hunters in Tsholotsho North after
Lodzi Hunters and Safaris approached it for relief.

In June, a Praz review panel said TRDC violated the country’s procurement laws by granting the tender to Matupula Hunters without Cabinet approval in terms of
section 100 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22:23).

Praz then asked TRDC to re-tender.

“The decisions of the third respondent (Praz) review panel, as a procuring entity, are binding on first respondent (Tsholotsho RDC). However, on July 3, 2019,
the first respondent authorised second respondent (Matupula Hunters) to proceed in carrying out hunts of elephants in the Tsholotsho North concession area,”
Lukuta added.

“Such award was made without it being put to tender and in terms of the procurement laws. The second respondent has, thus, avoided bidding for the Tsholotsho
North hunting concession, but has been awarded such concession outside the tender process in violation of the procurement law.”

TRDC is no stranger to the courts, with safari operators accusing it at every turn of improper conduct in awarding hunting concessions.

Rival safari operators have also been caught up in court battles, fighting for Tsholotsho’s hunting concessions.

TRDC is yet to respond to the application.

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