Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has fired the Energy and Minerals minister Sospeter Muhongo after a report revealed that mining firms understated exports.
“The minister and the Commissioner for Minerals (Paul Masanja) deserve to be taken to task for their failure to effectively supervise the sector.
“I call upon the minister to relinquish his post even though he is a personal friend of mine,” said President Magufuli Wednesday.
In March, the president initiated an investigation that has revealed that containers that had been impounded held 15.5 metric tonnes of gold instead of the 1.1 tonnes declared. Mr Magufuli made the announcement Wednesday on state television.
He also fired the Energy and Minerals Permanent Secretary Justin Ntalikwa for lying to Parliament about the amount of gold and copper concentrates in mineral sands held in the seized containers.
President Magufuli also dissolved the board of Tanzania Mineral Audit Agency (TMMA), sacked the chief executive Mr Dominick Rwekaza, and asked that its staff be investigated.
“I want you [authorities] to immediately start investigating staff at TMAA, starting from the CEO, who should step aside, to find out how they have contributed to the loss that the country has incurred. However, I will spare the Commissioner for Minerals because I recently appointed him but, the person before him should be investigated by relevant security organs,” said the president.
Tanzania is estimated to be losing over $620 million in royalties of undeclared minerals.
“For all these years even with the TMAA in place, the country has been shortchanged and continues to be cheated out of the much needed revenue that would greatly boost our health sector, infrastructure and others,” he said.
Tanzania is Africa's fourth-biggest gold producer mined by Acacia Mining Plc, AngloGold Ashanti, among others.
Additional reporting by Hellen Githaiga.