Diamonds scam, police swing into action

“After President John Magufuli instructed defence and security organs to immediately start investigating all officials implicated in the reports, we have already arrested some of them for interrogation,” said the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Simon Sirro.

 

IGP Sirro did not mention the number or names of arrested officials for investigative reasons but he said they were being probed by the office of the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Robert Boaz.

 

But the IGP told a news conference in Dar es Salaam that most officials under interrogation were arrested in Manyara region where tanzanite is mined at Mererani.

 

Sirro said the police in collaboration with other security organs have already formed a task force to work on the reports.

 

He appealed to officers mentioned in the two reports to voluntarily surrender themselves to the DCI before summons are issued as to their being sought by the police.

 

On Thursday, President Magufuli also ordered the suspension of senior officials implicated in the two reports.

 

“Ministers, permanent secretaries, regional administrative secretaries, regional commissioners or district commissioners, district directors mentioned in the two reports should step aside to facilitate investigations,” said Magufuli shortly after he was presented with the reports at the State House in Dar es Salaam.

 

“The officials mentioned in the two reports should give way pending the holding of investigations,” said Magufuli.

 

The two reports which were presented to the president by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa revealed massive irresponsibility, dereliction of duty and apparent corruption by government officials causing losses of billions of shillings to the country’s coffers.

 

Among others, the report mentioned former Deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals George Simbachawene, former Permanent Secretary for the Ministry Energy and Minerals Eliakim Maswi, Edwin Ngonyani who is a former chief executive officer for the State Mining Corporation (Stamico) and other senior officials in the ministry.

 

Simbachawene was until yesterday Minister of State in the President’s Office responsible for Regional Administration and Local Governments. Ngonyani was Deputy Minister for Works, Transport and Communication and Maswi was Regional Administrative Secretary for Manyara region.

 

However, a few hours after the presidential order on Thursday, Simbachawene and Ngonyani announced they were stepping down in line with the president’s directive of having to pave way for investigations.

  

 “The two committees have shown weaknesses in overseeing our natural resources. It is high time all Tanzanians became patriotic in protecting our resources,” said Magufuli.

 

 The parliamentary committee tasked to investigate diamond mining in the Lake Zone region of Shinyanga revealed that weak mining contracts entered by irresponsible government officials with mining companies was a thorn in the flesh to the country.

Mussa Hassan Zungu, the chairman of the committee tasked to probe diamond mining, said there were conflicting data on the actual amount of diamonds transported outside the country among various government agencies.

 Zungu appealed to the government to review laws pertaining to diamond mining to enable Tanzania to properly benefit from the natural resource.

 On July 5 the National Assembly formed a nine-man investigative team to assess how Tanzania was benefiting from diamond mining.

 The investigative team looked at regulation, ownership and diamond mining, said Speaker of the National Assembly Job Ndugai.

 He said the team drawing members of Parliament from the ruling CCM and the opposition worked for 30 days and then submitted its report.

 In June, President Magufuli suspended the issuance of new mining licenses to investors pending regulatory reorganization of mining activities.

 He said minerals, including gold, that were being mined in the country were natural resources that belonged to Tanzanians and that the government he leads would never tolerate seeing a few individuals benefiting from the country's natural resources, leaving the majority of Tanzanians wallowing in poverty.

In May, President Magufuli sacked then Minister for Energy and Minerals Sospeter Muhongo after a report showed he was implicated in mining firms' undeclared large amounts of gold, copper, silver and other minerals in mineral sand exports.

The report revealed that the undeclared valuable metals content in the mineral sand exports facilitated tax evasion by the mining firms.

Magufuli said the report revealed that mining firms, including Acacia Mining, cheated over mineral sand exports for smelting abroad, making the east African nation lose millions of dollars in unpaid revenues.

The president also dissolved the Tanzania Mineral Audit Agency (TMAA) Board of Directors and suspended the agency's Chief Executive Officer, Dominic Rwekaza, for what was termed as gross negligence.