Port deal outrage sends Samia and CCM to early campaigns

Saturday July 29 2023
dar port

A carriage for the Standard Gauge Railway project is unloaded at the port in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on November 25, 2022. PHOTO | ERICKY BONIPHACE | AFP


The port management deal between Tanzania and a Dubai company is giving President Samia Suluhu and the ruling party Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) sleepless nights as opposition mounts campaigns to milk political mileage out of it.

And ahead of the next elections cycle which begins next year, the President who has enjoyed virtually unchallenged public support in her two years at the helm, is now facing an outrage over claims that she surrendered the country’s prime assets to foreigners. There has been unrelenting public skepticism over how the deal's conditions may impact Tanzania's control over its ports.

As such, the ruling CCM party, which President Samia chairs, last week swung into action to counter opposition efforts to turn the port deal to a campaign tool, with the 2024 civic elections approaching fast. Tanzania and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached an agreement last year, which allows DP World, a multinational logistics company based in Dubai, to run the port of Dar es Salaam.

Read: Dubai deal exposes inefficiences at Dar port

The preliminary Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) titled Economic and Social Partnership for the Development and Improving Performance of the Ports in Tanzania was signed by representatives of the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) and DP World in President Samia's presence during the Dubai Expo Festival in February last year.

The IGA covered areas such as special economic zones and infrastructure for logistical support, parks and trade corridors. According to submissions in a constitutional case brought by four private lawyers to challenge the pact that the High Court began hearing on Thursday this week, a binding agreement was signed by Works and Transport Minister Prof Makame Mbarawa with the president's consent in October last year.


It was unanimously endorsed by parliament on June 10 this year and since then has become subject of criticism from the opposition party Chadema for, among other things, not including ports in Zanzibar.

Other critics include religious leaders and legal experts who have questioned why the pact does not have an end date and contains provisions that prevent either party from terminating the agreement due to "material breaches."

Chadema vice-chairperson Tundu Lissu said the deal was likely to remain "on top of Tanzania's political agenda for the next 20 years and not just the 2025 election,” adding: "I don’t know how CCM will be able to avoid it."

Read: EYAKUZE: If you don’t feel port pact, please stand

Chadema and other commentators have tried to brand the deal President Samia's personal initiative in a bid to hurt her popularity.
Government officials, including the president herself, have vehemently denied claims that the deal amounts to a "sell-off" of Tanzania's prime properties to foreign investors and stressed that the IGA endorsed by parliament is not "final" since it will be followed by a Host Government Agreement (HGA) and Lease/Concession Agreement which will provide room for changes if necessary.

But the debate has continued to polarise public opinion, prompting CCM's top hierarchy to launch its own crusade led by the party's vice chairperson Abdulrahman Kinana and secretary-general Daniel Chongolo.

The duo began traversing the country on July 15 to convince Tanzanians about the merits of the deal and how it is expected to improve operations at the port of Dar es Salaam, which is Tanzania's main trade gateway, and raise its status among competitors along Africa's Indian Ocean coast.

Mr Chongolo told rallies in Tanga and Mbeya that plans to improve the country's ports were included in CCM's manifesto for the 2020 general election, well before Samia succeeded John Magufuli.

“People are discussing this matter as if it was President Samia’s sole initiative when in reality it was a collective party initiative and not just hers," he said in Mbeya. "If you see any CCM member criticising this deal, that person's commitment to the party must be doubted."

A widespread perception that remains unverified is that some of the public rancour towards the DP World deal is emanating from within CCM itself, particularly factions still unhappy with having to kowtow to a female president.

Read: ULIMWENGU: A deep dive into dubious Dubai-Dar deal

President Samia, who was elevated from vice president following the death of John Magufuli in March 2021, is eligible for one full term as an elected president and she has made clear her intention to seek the electorate's mandate in 2025.

In the High Court case now underway in Mbeya, petitioners Alphonce Lusako, Emmanuel Chengula, Raphael Ngonde and Frank Nyalusi claim the IGA is non-applicable to Tanzania because it contains clauses which violate the country's constitution and laws governing protection of its natural resources.

They also allege that the agreement in its current form endangers Tanzania's sovereignty and national security, and was approved by parliament without following proper legal procedures including ensuring sufficient public participation.

Among the issues brought before the three-judge panel for ruling is whether the IGA can be considered a proper contract in itself under Tanzanian law and whether Tanzania's parliament had legal authority to endorse it without public involvement.

The respondents are the Attorney General on behalf of the government, the Minister for Works and Transport and his permanent secretary, and the Clerk of the National Assembly. Counsels for the respondents have requested the court to expedite the case hearing and final ruling "for the public's benefit."