Wanted: Vigilance on our mineral worth and demand for equity shares

Makwaia Wa Kuhenga

ONCE again, President Magufuli has uncovered what has left many Tanzanians with their mouths agape: hundreds of containers being shipped out of the country containing seemingly “rubbished” mineral sand from the country’s Lake Zone mines but are not exactly what they are intended to look like!

This follows his earlier surprise visit to the Dar es Salaam port on assumption of office last year when he uncovered a lootocracy of an alarming scale in the import and export business where the state was being cheated of trillion of shillings winding up in private pockets.

Even for a person who is not an economist, the looting at the Dar es Salaam harbor would have taken care of this country’s external donors’ dependence on its annual national budget had the looted money found its way into state coffers.

The question to ask is: For how long had this looting at the Dar es Salaam port taken place preceding Dr Magufuli’s presidency? Now that it has been uncovered, what steps have been taken so that this level of thievery does not continue?

Lets us look at what the President has once again opened the eyes of many Tanzanians on what has been happening to their mineral wealth which has been highly pronounced in the intervening period even making our politicians look away from the country’s traditional agricultural production erstwhile the backbone of our national economy such as sisal and cotton. I have a copy of this newspaper with me of the preceding Friday.

Goes a quotation, quoting the President: “Our country has been extremely deceived. I have come to witness these containers and I have seen them. When all the procedures are complete, I want all Tanzanians and the entire world to see for themselves what is inside, is sand or gold?”

The President commended port officials for their bold move to seize 20 containers of mineral sand being exported out of the country. “It is surprising to see that the country has huge unpaid debts, yet we are endowed with natural resources including minerals that are exported to Europe for processing, leaving our people languishing in poverty,” this newspaper quoted President Magufuli as saying. To me, this is the major point, and immediately it assumes the main focus of this perspective.

The questions are: for how long has this country been known as mineral rich?

Appropriate to what the President has uncovered, for how long have the “mineral sands” been spirited out of the country? What has been the reward for our mineral wealth by multinationals of this world: equity shares or royalties? As written at the launch of this perspective, listening to politicians within both ruling party and the opposition, very few of them, actually none of them are singing the old song we were used to since the founder President of this country, Mwalimu Nyerere extolling agriculture as the backbone of our national economy.

It is all-quiet. It is as if we are already up in the sky - very happy with our “mineral wealth”! Although one may have no evidence, it must be believed that what the President saw at the port the other day is a game that has been going on for a considerable period of time, much longer preceding his presidency, isn’t it? What has been the cost to our country?

Now imagine: the stuff that could be containing our minerals is being shipped away to Europe, what about the actual “catch” that has been dug off the ground without the need for more pruning? Do we deserve “royalties” really for our natural wealth?

If the land is ours, plus the minerals, why settle for royalties? I would imagine royalties are for an author who is unable to meet printing costs of his/her work, isn’t it? As the President has said, as quoted elsewhere in this perspective, now than ever before, we urgently need a win-win quid pro quo in the exploitation of our natural resources and wealth.

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