President John Magufuli yesterday named a second team of experts to join an ongoing investigation into the mineral content in hundreds of tonnes of copper concentrate withheld in different parts of the country.
The government has banned any export of the copper concentrate mined by multinational companies as well as small scale minors until the investigation was completed and findings submitted to him.
The naming of the eight economists and lawyers brings to 16, the number of professional appointed by the president to two different special committees carrying out the task.
Those named yesterday by the chief secretary John Kijazi were sworn in today at the State House in Dar es Salaam, nearly two weeks after the first team of also eight members was sworn in to start the probe.
The team will likely tackle the legal and economic aspects of the saga while the first one was to look at technical aspects of the composition of the copper concentrate. There was widespread social media debate on what many saw as duplicity of the role.
The probe apparently underlines the high stake the President had attached to the matter of the concentrate export, and also portrays a desire that he may have held for many years.
President Magufuli started complaining about the concentrate exports long before he entertained thoughts of ever becoming President of Tanzania.
A widely shared video clip that emerged in the year running up to the nomination of the CCM candidates for the presidency in 2015 captures the then minister and Chato MP in an animated conversation over the exports.
In the clip, Dr Magufuli appears engrossed in a loud conversation with a group of individuals on the subject of why mining companies were exporting the copper concentrate. Among those in the conversation was former Home Affairs Minister Charles Kitwanga.
The video opens up with one man explaining the mining process and when he touches on the export of copper concentrates, President Magufuli interjects to say; “And that’s where they steal from us” before Mr Kitwanga jumps in to ask him to let the speaker complete his sentence.
“Keep the cool let him continue,” says Mr Kitwanga but Dr Magufuli holds his fort quipping “there he has now touched the raw nerve” before taking over to explain his case.
He said: “In the concentrate exported to Japan, there is silver, titanium and copper that they could extract here.”
But Mr Kitwanga told him that there was no facility to do that locally, to which Dr Magufuli short back: “All that is required is heat of up to 1500 degrees…they could set up furnaces.”
No furnace in Tanzania
When Mr Kitwanga pushes his point that there is no local capacity, the President raises up his hands and wonders how possible it is that Tanzanians could not afford an investment of a furnace to attain the boiling point for silver and copper “and have them (minerals) flow like water.”
The President then goes on to say that those who export the copper concentrate mint a fortune out of it while giving peanuts in return.
He gave the example of Tsh200 million ($89,850) donation that was given to him by the Japanese for the construction of a local health facility. “silver is very expensive, titanium is used to manufacture airplanes…but what to do let’s keep on losing until when we die,” he says to prompt Mr Kitwanga who is heard telling him; “then go and pick the form.”
“Which form? Dr Magufuli asks, to a roar of laughter from the group. Amid the laughter, the President says “for me the people will plough using their teeth,” adding to the laughter.
The form being referred to was apparently the one to offer one’s candidacy for the presidency.
Later that year Dr Magufli would go on to become the unexpected candidate of the ruling party and defeated opposition candidate and former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa to become the fifth President of the republic.
In his first Cabinet, he picked Mr Kitwanga as his Home Affairs Minister but sacked him soon after when he reportedly went to Parliament drunk.
The Citizen could not readily identify the other people in the video clip and where it was shot.