Tanzania's Magufuli appoints team to probe ferry disaster

Monday September 24 2018

Tanzanian ferry

Tanzania security forces bury victims of the ferry accident at the shore of Lake Victoria at Ukara, Ukerewe District, Mwanza, on September 23, 2018. At least 227 passengers are confirmed dead after MV Nyerere capsized on September 20, 2018. PHOTO | AFP 

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Tanzanian President John Magufuli has appointed a seven-member team to investigate the cause of the sinking of MV Nyerere ferry in Lake Victoria.

The vessel capsized on Thursday afternoon as it prepared to dock at Ukara Island two hours after leaving Bugolora Island in Ukerewe, Mwanza, killing more than 220 people. Only 41 people survived.

The investigating team will be headed by former Chief of Defence Forces Gen George Waitara.

The Member of Parliament of Ukerewe, Mr Joseph Mkundi, will also be a member of the team.

According to Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, the investigators have 30 days to release their findings and recommendations.

Dr Mussa Mgwatu, the chief executive officer of the Tanzania Mechanical and Electrical Services Agency (Temesa), which runs the ferry services, has been suspended to pave the way for the investigation, Mr Majaliwa said.

President Magufuli has also dissolved the entire board of Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra), the regulatory body, and sacked its chairman Dr John Ndunguru.

The President had on Friday ordered the arrest of those responsible for the sinking, accusing the ferry management of negligence and overloading the vessel.

As at Monday afternoon, three bodies were recovered bring the death toll to 227.

The ferry had the capacity of 100 passengers and 25 tonnes of cargo.

New vessel

Mr Majaliwa also directed the Minister for Works, Transport and Communication, Mr Isaack Kamwelwe, to float a tender for the acquisition of a new vessel to ply the Bugolora-Ukara route.

Meanwhile, the Tanzanian army has started pulling the wreckage of the sunken vessel out of water. The exercise is expected to be completed in seven days.