The authority’s board resolved last year not to renew expired leases saying the concessions should revert back to its management so that it would “sweat” the asset.
According to the board resolution of a meeting held in April 2011 “all expired leases must revert to the authority where they will be managed under a different business model”.
The authority wants to auction the concessions to raise money for its operations after it was weaned off Treasury funds.
This paper was told last week that six operators with expired leases — Charara Safaris, Doma, Tuli, Sengwa, Matetsi and Makuti — were told to pack and go after their leases expired on December 31.
The authority has appointed KM Auctions to conduct an auction on the three concessions — Charara, Makuti and Tuli — at Pandhari Lodge on April 27. The fate of the other three could not be ascertained yesterday. Standardbusiness understands that a court injunction would be filed on Tuesday to stop the auction.
This has riled the affected players who are now alleging that the authority is selectively applying the rules after it recently extended the leases for some operators.
According to the players, National Parks should give them a leeway so that they pay in installments arguing that there is a precedent.
“Last year, when Chirisa’s licence expired, it was renewed after it was agreed that the safari operator would pay US$180 000 in installments,” said an operator.
“Chiwure North paid US$300 000 under installments. Unit 6 in Victoria Falls paid US$100 000 in renewal fees. We are saying why is it that some leases which expired were renewed but they refuse to renew ours.”
Chirisa, Chiwure North and Unit 6 are owned by senior politicians and businessmen.
Thandiwe Nkomo-Ebrahim, who owns Tuli, said last week that they were trying to appeal for renewal “but so far we are not succeeding”.
She said they were almost chucked out after five years but managed to convince the authority to extend the lease.
According to her, the process is not uniform as some players had their leases extended.
Retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi, who owns Charara Safaris, told Standardbusiness on Tuesday that he was not aware of problems his company was facing with its licensing.
Vitalis Chadenga, the authority’s director-general, said he is constrained by ethics not to discuss the authority’s business with clients in the press.
He however added that leases are given for a specific period and once they expire, the concessions revert to the authority.
Chadenga said he was not aware of any discussions underway for the extension of the leases.
When he was told that the affected operators were alleging favouritism in the extension of the leases, Chadenga said players with concerns were “free to talk to me, the board or ministry (Environment and Natural Resources Management)”.
The operators got into the industry when Mugabe instructed the then Tourism minister, Victoria Chitepo, to ensure that blacks venture into the then white-dominated business.
There are now fears that the latest move by the authority would reverse the gains.
Nkomo-Ebrahim said if the concessions go for tender, there were chances that the indigenous players would not win.