Tanzania's Parliamentary Standing Committee on Lands, Natural Resources and Tourism said on Monday that a decision by the government to revoke tourist hunting permits has discouraged investment in the key sector.
Reacting to budget proposals from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism yesterday, members of the committee told the National Assembly in the capital Dodoma that the move also violates wildlife laws and is a setback to growth of the industry.
Nape Nnauye, the House team chairperson, said the decision to revoke the tourist hunting permits is against the 2009 Wildlife Act and has made investors jittery.
"Section (38) of the Wildlife Conservation Act states that the lasting period for a hunting license is five years, but the ministry revoked the licenses three years before the lawful tenure," he said.
"An analysis by the committee has established that various statements by the ministry on the hunting blocks were against laws and not only did the statements discourage investors but they also subjected the government to losses in revenues."
Vunjo Member of Parliament, James Mbatia, also linked slower growth of the sector to arbitrary State directives that caused uncertainty.
He pointed out that tourist arrivals had been increasing by about 13 per cent between 2012 and 2016 but grew by just three per cent in 2017.
"This is definitely caused by haphazard announcements and directives issued by the government," said Mr Mbatia today.
He also noted that tour operators in Tanzania were over-taxed, saying it was a burden to sector stakeholders.
The legislators' remarks are only the latest in a years-long debate on the contentious subject of trophy hunting.
Tourism Minister Hamisi Kigwangallah revoked all tourist hunting permits in October last year saying the licences would be re-applied through auction.
In September 2015, the Tanzanian government came under pressure to suspend legal hunting but said it did not believe the practice had fuelled wildlife poaching.
Former Tanzania Hunting Operators Association chairman Eric Pasanisi said the proposed suspension of trophy hunt tourism will adversely affect wildlife conservation, as a large chunk of conservation funds come from the activity widely condemned by conservationists.
The neighbouring country has allowed trophy hunting over the years while Kenya banned the activity in the 1970s.
While licenced trophy hunters argue that it helps in the conservation of game such as elephants and lions, environmentalists say cash from controlled hunting safaris employs few Tanzanians and that earnings from it aren't significant enough to local communities to justify killing wildlife.
Apart from Tanzania, game hunting is also legal in Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Additional reporting by Alawi Masare of The Citizen