For a while now, foreign investors in Tanzania have been accused of arrogance, and gross human rights abuses. They are being associated with slavery, and indenture servitude of their local employees, they are exposing thousands to radiation through high powered body scanning ex-ray machines in the mines. Some of these companies have left scores dead without a single person in their chain of command being held accountable. River Tigite in Nyamongo for example, is polluted with toxic chemicals/metals, that has killed livestock, and left many lives permanently ruined and neither the government nor the investor has taken responsibility for the lives lost. Commissions formed have been good as nothing, as their reports are shelved.
Our natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. Foreign investors, and multinationals are stripping bare our land. These companies hardly pay royalties, and taxes, neither do they develop through corporate responsibilities the areas in which they operate. They are on a looting spree, operating with impunity. They are bringing into the country thousands of foreign employees, including truck and folk lift drivers, yet Tanzania’s unemployment stands at 26%. These people are paying themselves, tens of thousands of dollars a month with money from our land, while the natives are dying of hunger and bullets. Acts that are breeding deep hatred, resentment, and animosity instead of prosperity.
A very influential law maker in the East African Legislative Assembly narrated to me a very disturbing incident he encountered in Zanzibar. He was denied both entry and accommodation at an Italian owned hotel because he was black, and his position meant nothing to the powerful, and well connected Italian investor. The legislator reported the matter to the authorities, but nothing was done about it. It was quite clear that, Blacks were not allowed in this exclusive, white only hotel. The MP wondered why Tanzanians are making so much noise about Ugandans, Kenyans, and even Rwandese taking their land, yet Italians, Arabs, Chinese, and even Somalis purchasing millions of acres at will. Who should they fear the most, East Africans or the influx of far-easterners?
While in Tanzania, last month, I came across two, very bizarre, encounters. Travelling from Mwanza to Tarime, in the middle of nowhere, roughly one hundred and twenty miles from Mwanza, a frail looking South African backpacker, who had been in the country for more than thirteen months, stood in the middle of the road flagging me for a ride. Knowing this man was not a native, I stopped to help, just to meet a shocker of my life. The man had no money, and was moving from town to town through begging. The mystery deepens when the man got irate with my probing questions, trying to figure out how he got in Tanzania, his mission, survival and so forth. Out of the tens of questions I posed, his answer was simple; God was providing everything in his spiritual journey, and highly believed he was going to reach his final destination (Zanzibar) through grace of God.
This strange man, however, had a plan, and knew his way, including a special gate in Serengeti where he would cross free of charge on his way from Musoma to Singida, Dodoma, Dar, and finally to Zanzibar. As citizens of Tanzania, we could not cross into Serengeti without paying the minimum fee. Even after crossing into Serengeti back in 2007; we were denied entry into a lodge because the wardens believed we could have been a danger to “Wageni”. Worst of all, they forced us to leave their premises at 7pm, and drive back almost 100 kilometers, else they would not guarantee our safety, and this was after we produced all the documentation to show we were there as domestic tourists. We slept in the car, in which were periodically visited by some of the deadliest animals you can think of. I realized how useless a Tanzanian’s life is, in front of a foreigner!
Two weeks after meeting this strange man, at one of the entry points, I met a middle aged Chinese lady, who could barely speak English or Swahili, with a green, United Republic of Tanzania passport as her form of identity. I was shocked but not surprised because this was in Tanzania. I was not shocked because she was Chinese, but how she obtained the passport considering most Tanzania passport holders, speaks Swahili and some English. I cannot answer the question on how she obtained the passport, but can confidently say that she did not steal it. She obtained it through some of our trusted custodians of our safety and security. Logical mind would pose a question, how dangerous could this be to our economic and national security?
There is serious security and economic implications for foreigners to drive around the country, with hundreds of millions in the trunk of their Range-Rovers; Aggressively purchasing land, and other properties at prices far above their market value. Yes, a Somali man outbid me in Bunju in 2009, unjustifiably offering 120million in cash for a piece of land which, in fair market price could not fetch more than 45million, and this brings me into making an assumption that, foreign investors in the country are not the problem. The problem is ourselves; we Tanzanians.
We are the problem because we don’t have patriots. Our broken system is the problem, greed is our problem. We are signing bogus contracts; we are issuing residence, and work permits to people who don’t deserve them for the sake of MONEY. Our leaders are selling our birth rights of land, and passports to foreigners leaving its poor citizens in the cold as second class citizens.
Our leaders must STOP selling our country, an act that is charging peace abiding citizens against investors and foreigners. They are selling their own children’s and grandchildren’s future. Our leaders must know that, sentiment on the street regarding foreigners looting and taking advantage of the country is not flattering, it is scary. They must listen to the voices of the youth craving for jobs; young people whose jobs in hotels, supermarkets, pharmacies, daycares, and even those of driving folk lift in mines are all taken by foreigners. They must know that, they are breeding insecurity as Young men in Kariakoo and elsewhere running out of options due to their inability to compete with the well financed foreign hawkers. Our leaders are creating a time bomb they won’t diffuse when natural reaction to hopelessness takes its course.
Of course, they must welcome investors, but with caution.
Of course, they must welcome investors, but with caution.
Mungu Ibariki Tanzania