Tanzania: The President and his Quest towards National Recuperation and against the Exploitation of the Country’s Resources

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By: Loic Ramirez / Source: Le Grand Soir / The Dawn News / November 23, 2017

He arrived quietly and unnoticed. Away from the radars of the majority of the French media, the Tanzanian government began working and changed the national scheme. At the same time it is a reality that is hard for the actuality of the African continent to trespass the media fog created by the islamist groups of the zone. “The tree that falls makes more sound that the forest that grows”, says a saying that arose from the collective intelligence. The forest is John Pombe Joseph Magufuli who became president of the Republic of Tanzania in November 5 of 2015, with the 58% of the votes. With 59 years and two bachelor’s degrees (in maths and chemistry), he took several post in the core of previous governments, like Minister for Work or MInister for Fisheries and Livestock. “He is a pure product of the system, and yet, he doesn’t resemble anyone”, states the Jeune Afrique magazine[1]. Similarly to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, who in the first months of his presidency stated that he wouldn’t yield one bit towards the “loafers” [2], Magufuli also declared himself hostile towards them… even though he stated he was talking about “the agents of the government” for whom the tolerance era “had ended” [3]. The new leader, “Bulldozer”, as he is called, launched a campaign to fight corruption and he passed rapidly to the facts. One of the first things that he did was to carry on a surprise visit to the Finance Ministry in order to discuss with the minister the urge to “collect the funds to offer a free education as it was promised” [4]. He cancelled the ceremonies for the independence parties arguing that it was “shameful to spend so much money” when so many people were still dying from cholera and other diseases [5]. He drastically reduced the quantity of officials authorized to participate in official journeys [6] and reduced the budget aimed for the dinner before the Parliamentarian inaugural session in a 90% [7]. The money saved was used to buy beds and sheets for hospitals [8]. In another symbolic measure, the president reduced his salary from 100.000 to 7.000 dollars [9]*.

“Some analysts affirm that Magufuli is more popular than his party”, writes the journalist Ruth Nescoba in an article for the BBC [10]. His party , Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM, Revolutionary Party), was founded in 1977 after the fusion of the Tanganyka African National Union (TANU) and Afro Shirazi Party (ASP). So, the CCM has become the only party of the Republic of Tanzania, created in 1964. Directed in that moment by Julius Nyerere, the country aimed towards an African Socialism supported by the Communist China. A short experience which ended by the end of the 80s with a progressive reconversion to liberal policies that ended in multi party system in January 1992 [11]. Despite the changes, the CCM persisted as the unshakeable party of the national scenery. He who was the main rival of the president in the elections, Edward Lowassa, came from the same party as well. He is the former Prime Minister and he lost his chance of being re elected in the primary elections of 2015 by Mugufuli. Resentful, he abandoned the CCM to unite the opposition (Chadema Party or Democracy and Progress Party) and immediately became the the candidate for the presidential elections[12]. Defeated once again, he questioned the result in spite of the great difference of votes. “I am the President of Tanzania, John Pombe Joseph Magufuli”, stated the triumphant candidate in his inauguration speech, “and now, let’s get to work” [13].

 

The central key to the political ambitions of the new power, the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), entrusted with the tax collection, rapidly became the center of attention. In November 2015, the general commissioner Rished Bade was detained after the discovery of a hole in the public accounts of 40 million dollars [14]. A succession of leaders followed until the naming of Charles Kichere in November 2016. “Together we will build our nation”, points out the slogan of the official website of the TRA, where information on the progressive increment of tax revenues can be found [15]. The correct functioning of this organism has raised critics from economical sectors not used to this kind of control and who accuse the TRA of “harassment”. According to the South African newspaper The Citizen, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa explained: “Our government values investors and businessmen. A large part of our budget depends on taxes”. And he added with diplomacy: “We ask to those that have been unfairly mistreated by the TRA, to present their complaints to the competent authorities” [16]. The new Tanzanian government hasn’t established an increment on the tax fee towards companies (30% since 2009). Magufuli is carrying on a large-scale struggle against tax evasion.

 

The case of multinationals in the mining sector is a large scope task for the new team of the the “Bulldozer”. The country, which was a British colony, is rich in raw materials like gold, diamond, copper, etc. Like the rest of the continent, Tanzania is subjected to the wolfish appetite of the great companies. In March 2017, the government announced an audit of the mining companies to verify “if the existing fees had been paid correctly” [17]. The company Acacia Mining, the principal suspect of tax evasion, has over 250 blocked containers in the Dar-es-Salam port that need inspection [18]. The president removed from office the Mining Minister when he discovered that the weight of the exported minerals was reduced in the declarations. A penalty of 190 billion dollars was imposed to the company, which owns three mining locations in the country [19]. A suspension to the concession of new licences is in force since summer [20]. A negotiation period was opened up between the government and the powerful multinational Barrick Gold Corporation, the main gold producer of the world with Acacia Mining being its African subsidiary. In October a new agreement was settled which redefined the terms of mineral exploitation and the benefit sharing. This took to the decision of creating a new Tanzanian company in which the government will have the power to decide on future operations. The benefits will be distributed in equal parts between this company and the State. At the same time, the Barrick group, based in Canada, accepted to pay an indemnization of 300 million dollars to the Tanzanian government [21].

 

Another case is the one of the British company Petra Diamonds. On August 31, 2017, the Tanzanian authorities blocked the departure towards Belgium of a shipment of diamonds, since a undervalued declaration was suspected (15 million dollars versus 30 millions according to the authorities). As a consequence, the finance minister stated the government’s intention to “nationalize” the precious stones [22]. The company, on its behalf, suspended their activities and interrogated several of their workers.

 

“The elite hates him, but people love him”, points out the francophone media Jeune Afrique [23]. It isn’t strange for the new ruling party to attract the rage of some economic sectors. An alteration of the previous ruling order increases the chances for the current power to be in the center of geopolitical tensions in the future due to the media treatment it might receive. The Bolivarian Venezuela, which is a textbook example in regard of this treatment, describes perfectly these mechanisms of misinformation and omission that characterize the challenges in the media in international affairs.  Every decision and imputable crime of a regime that is in the spotlight will be magnified. “Tanzania, freedom spaces at risk”, by the BBC in January 2017 [24]. “President of Tanzania hates freedom of speech”, was the title of Le Monde France in March of the same year [25].  In August the webpage of RFI informed that the International Federation of the Human Rights Leagues denounced the mistreatment carried out by Tanzanian authorities towards journalists [26]. Is this a constant against those governments that try to change the status quo?

 

Translated from French to Spanish by Beatriz Morales Bastos

 

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