Wayward leaders causing jitters

Tanzanians have been urged to use their power of influence through mass protests and other available avenues to stop corrupt leaders from using government resources for their personal interests.

The call was made by participants in a two-day Social Watch Country Forum 2003 organised by Women’s Legal Aid Centre (WLAC) at Arts and Crafts Centre in Dar es salaam this week.

They said there is a need to have free civil society, NGOs, the press and community-based organisations (CBOs), that will reveal and expose misdeeds of corrupt leaders, who should be held accountable for plundering the country’s wealth with impunity.

Others went further, requesting the general public not to vote for such people during the forthcoming general elections.

They said one way of punishing corrupt officials was to deny them our votes.

The participants accused leaders who misuse their positions after being elected to big posts, and undermining the electorate that thrust them into the posts.

Tundu Lissu, a lawyer with Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT), blamed government and policy makers for giving away minerals to foreigners “free of charge” while most Tanzanians were poor.

He was presenting a paper on Globalisation, National Economy and the Politics of Plunder in Tanzania’s Mining Industry.

He said in April, 1990, the then President, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, declared that artisanal miners, who were between 500,000 and one million, were free to operate all over the country without interference.

“ But unfortunately, due to bad economic policies of the incumbent government, small miners were forcefully evicted from their lands and settlements and those areas were allocated to foreign mining companies,” Lissu pointed out.

He added that at Bulyanhulu alone, between 200,000 and 300,000 artisanal miners were dispersed from the area, as a curtain raiser to a takeover by Canadian investors in August, 1996.

He said according to available statistics, over a five-year period, between 1997 and 2002, six mining companies earned a total of US $ 895.8 million from exporting gold, tanzanite and diamonds from Tanzania.

He said, however, that the companies spent only US $ 86.8 in government taxes, royalties and other charges, which is 10 percent of the revenue that the six companies made out of the country’s mineral wealth.

Lissu further explained that the six companies spent about US $ 19.9 million on community development projects, which is absurd and an insult to the people of this country.

“These figures show that the country lost US $ 782.12 million net in those six years alone, as a result of bad policy and legal reforms of plunder under which foreign companies, in connivance with corrupt leaders in the government, gained control of our mineral resources,” he lamented bitterly.

He appealed to the people in the country to do something now to stop these miners from plundering the natural resources any further.

Wallace Mayunga, Executive Director of a Dar es salaam- based NGO called Campaign for Good Governance, accused leaders of being ignorant of the concept of democracy, good governance and rule of law.

“Because many people are ignorant, they have no knowledge of democracy, good governance and rule of law. It becomes difficult for them to demand their rights once taken away as vested to them in the constitution, or demand an explanation on various issues from leaders,” Mayunga expounded.

He said democracy can only flourish in the country if proper information is disseminated to all people both in rural and urban areas.

He said leaders, once elected, forget their obligations and the welfare of the people who put them into power, by abusing their mandate and enriching themselves through nation’s wealth.

He said because the checks-and-balances system was weak, leaders can do whatever they like without being taken to task or being held accountable for their misconduct.

Mrs Nakazael Lukio Tenga, Advocate and Board Member of WLAC, said the government has not fully implemented the ten Copenhagen Recommendations on Sustainable Development, which was signed in 1995.

“Women’s Legal Aid Centre has made a research on five recommendations in Nachingwea, Mtwara and Bagamoyo, Coast regions to see if there was any potential progress on health, education, human rights, poverty reduction and gender equality has been made,” she said.

She explained that according to the report, much efforts are needed to accomplish the task of eradicating poverty in the society in those areas.

She said there was an urgent need of changing all laws and rules which contravene the implementation of the Copenhagen Recommendations and WLAC will continue highlighting the bottle-necks and success of the whole programme.