Mkapa signed bad mining deals, Magufuli wants to bury them, but legally he can’t

Wednesday June 07 2017

President John Pombe Magufuli has just got himself a brand-new Chief Inspector of Police. The new top cop goes by the name of Simon Sirro, and he takes over from a Jakaya Kikwete appointee, Ernest Mangu, who, we are told, “will be assigned new duties.”

It is normal in our kind of dispensation for every incoming president to pick his own police chief, as if each president has a personal agenda and needs persons he agrees with on a personal level to assist him in delivering that agenda.

That, however, is only one of the reasons that probably made Magufuli pick a new chief. There has developed, over the past year or so, a disquieting security situation in a couple of districts to the south of Dar es Salaam, where unidentified gunmen have been killing local officials, including policemen and ruling party officials. Police posts and motor vehicles have been targeted, as well as CCM officials’ houses.

Hardly 200 kilometres from Dar es Salaam, these areas simply do not answer to the remoteness one usually associates with a low-level insurgency in any country, but the government has looked clueless so far. The Home Affairs minister, after a long silence, appeared on television and mumbled something about there being “some kind of game” being played out in the area.

In the absence of solid information, rumour has filled the vacuum. Some say the attacks are fuelled by injustices committed by officials engaged in cut-throat competition (with locals) for natural resources in a badly governed boondocks. Some attribute them to political tensions, though this seems farfetched.

Whatever the cause of this spate of killings, the new IGP’s work is cut out for him and he will be under pressure to show results.


Taken for a ride

At the same time, President Magufuli has sacked the minister responsible for mining amid a brouhaha concerning the alleged under-declaration of gold exports as well as the copper and other concentrates in the gold sands sent out of the country for smelting.

Magufuli’s take is that Tanzania has been taken for a ride for far too long.

A prominent lawyer, Tundu Lissu, has been arguing that the government should not be crying foul over matters that it was warned against right from the late 1990s, when Lissu was an environmental lawyer campaigning against the mining regimes in place at the time and the contracts that the government, then under president Benjamin Mkapa, was entering into with international mining conglomerates.

Lissu insists that Magufuli was an integral part of the government and he cannot therefore pretend to know nothing of what was signed onto.

He counsels that a proper way of getting out of the hole the government has dug itself into, would be to take legal steps to end the obligations incurred back then and enter into fresh contractual arrangements more fair to the government and the people of Tanzania.

It is hard to see Magufuli listening to this advice, so gung-ho is he about ending what he sees as blatant theft. But when the case goes to international arbitration, Tanzania may find itself made to meet its part of the bargain entered into back during Mr Mkapa’s rule, and that could mean hefty payments out of the country.

Play by the rules

Already, Tanzania is facing demands of over $550 million from Symbion, an American power company, for breach of contract by national power utility Tanesco.

Such demands could come thick and fast unless the government learns to play by the rules and to accept as its own obligations commitments made by its predecessors.

How beautiful it would be if Tanzania could throw caution to the wind, thump its chest and tell the donor states to go play with themselves. Alas, we are not there yet, and it does not look like we are headed that way any time soon.

Though in my soul of souls I know that we do not need to behave like beggars, with all the resources at our disposal, yet that is what our rulers have made us – beggars.

Every time some donor goes to Ikulu to tell the president that that other tranche of funds that was momentarily withheld is now available, I note the glee on the president’s face. Then I know he is desperately eager to lay his hands on that money.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]