After we heard that there would be El Nino rains this year, our village elders decided to enter a game park to perform rituals to reduce the amount of rain and save the crops and lives of people in our community. Unfortunately park rangers found the elders in the game park performing rituals with traditional weapons. The rangers arrested and charged the elders with the offences of unlawful entering into the game park without a permit and unlawful possession of weapons in the game park. Shockingly the elders have been recently convicted and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. We have been surprised by this sentence and would like to know if the performance of rituals in the game park is such a serious offence which attracts a penalty of twenty years in jail.
Entering a game park such as a national park, game reserve or a game controlled area with any kind of weapon without a permit issued by the wildlife authority like Tanzania National Park or Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority is an economic offence listed in paragraph 14 of the First Schedule to the Economic and Organised Crime Control Act. The minimum sentence prescribed under section 60(2) of the Economic and Organised Control Act for any economic offence regardless of its gravity is 20 years imprisonment. Entering a game park for performance of rituals is, per se, not an offence under the wildlife laws or the Economic and Organised Crime Control Act. It is an offence to enter the game park without a permit issued by the wildlife authority in-charge of the game park. Any person who wishes to enter a game park for rituals or any purpose must seek and obtain permits from the wildlife authority responsible for the management of the game park one desires to enter.
There is no automatic right to enter a game park for rituals. The wildlife authorities need to know who has entered their game parks and for what purpose. In the absence of a permit from the responsible wildlife authority, it becomes difficult to know the intention of the elders going armed into the game park. Entering a game park becomes an economic offence if the person entering the offender goes there armed with any type of weapon which is likely to be used to kill or trap animals in the park.