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Magufuli fish case lessons

Magufuli fish case lessons

That was when the presiding Judge, Augustine Mwarija, convicted two of the five remaining accused out of an original 34 accused of two offences — illegal fishing; and environmental pollution/degradation — in Tanzania’s Exclusive Economic Zone in March 2009, nearly three years ago.

In the event, the two — the ship’s Captain, Hsu Chin Tai, and his local agent, Zhao Han Guin, both Chinese citizens — were sentenced to ten and 20 years in jail (to be served concurrently) or fines totaling Tsh21bn in all (roughly US$13.125m).

The Judge also ordered forfeiture of the fishing vessel involved, m/v Tawaliq-I. Apparently, the vessel didn’t have a valid fishing licence — although, clearly, the captain and his agent knew the statutory requirement for that, producing a licence for a sister ship, Tawliq-II to explain their presence in Tanzanian waters!

The fish found onboard at the material time, 296.32 tonnes of tuna valued at Tsh2bn (roughly US$1.25m today) had already been distributed free of charge to local public institutions by ministerial fiat! If they do not exercise their right of appeal within the stipulated period, then that will be the final of the legalistic contest. [HabariLeo et al: February 24, 2012]. But, that is another story…

There indeed are certain lessons that can be learned from the case. One: cooperating in economic matters with other countries in the region can have good results down the line. I say this bearing in mind the fact that the ‘Samaki was Magufuli’ case was the result of a joint patrol mission between crews of the navy and other officials of Tanzania, most ably aided by those from the Republic of South Africa.

It is no easy matter for Tanzania’s nascent navy to be able to effectively patrol the country’s EEZ that today stretches 200 nautical miles out to the Indian Ocean. If nothing else, this amply demonstrates the continued need for Tanzania to avail itself of every opportunity to call upon neighbouring nation-states and development partners for similar joint socio-economic development activities.

[Needless to harp on this, the task will be doubly as difficult if and when the Zone id extended by  another 150 nautical miles, an application for which has been filed with the United Nations for consideration. But, again, that is another story…]

Secondly, there is a crying need for Tanzania to speed up and otherwise improve its judicial and other litigation processes. There is no earthly reason why the Magufuli Fish case — and, indeed other court cases — should take as long as three years to determine and resolve. At the end of the day, persons will have been caused injustice, as ‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied’ [Clause 40, Magna Carta Libertatum: 1215].

In this particular case, 29 of the accused were found prima facie to have no case to answer more than two years down the judicial road. Three others were acquitted of all the charges, while one — a Kenyan crew member on the fated fishing vessel — died in custody from ‘a long illness,’ going to his Maker without knowing his fate this side of Heaven!

The Government in Dar has declared its intention to convert to its use the subject fishing vessel. [TanzaniaDaima: February 25, 2012]. Fair enough — and subject, of course, to there being no successful appeal against the relative Court judgments. But, reports have it that the vessel was illegally stripped of, and vandalized, most of its valuable, removable parts and accessories even as it rode anchor in Dar es Salaam Harbour, ostensibly under armed police guard!

This is indeed a habit in Tanzania whereby seized/confiscated properties, including motor vehicles, are usually held in the open air at police stations and other official premises, ostensibly pending investigations and other processes to determine if the goods were lawfully held.

At the end (of a very long) day, the original value of the items is severely compromised through theft of parts and accessories, as well as through lack of care and the vagaries of the elements The weather In ‘civilized, conscientious’ countries (like the Netherlands, where I was in 1968), seized items like vehicles continue to be serviced, maintained — and even used — by the seizing authorities.

This is to keep their worth on the up and up until their ‘fate’ is judiciously determined. In Tanzania, these are left lying in situ, only to rot away, be stripped of their valuable parts and accessories, and otherwise get ruined in all weathers rain or shine — to everyone’s loss but that of the thieves and vandals who seem to get away with it even under the very noses of guards armed to the teeth!  israellyimo@yahoo.com

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Author: Karl Lyimo

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