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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Is it true some Tanzanians hide billions of shillings abroad?

1st July 2012

A respected local media house this week came up with an investigative story likely to be a strong contender in the annual journalist of the year competition, if pursued to its logical conclusion.

The national interest news story is nothing else but a report that some Tanzanians are alleged to have about Sh307.7 billion in their Swiss accounts.

Much as it is an open secret that some politicians and government mandarins in Africa and other third world countries are notorious for stashing billions of ill-gotten money in outside banks, Tanzanians had for a long time falsely believed that our top public officials are not victims of the “loot-and-hide-outside “syndrome.

By the way, Tanzanians need not be blamed for entertaining this feeling of trust in their top politicians and government bureaucrats.

Such practices could hardly happen during the first post independence government of the no-nonsense Julius Kambarage Nyerere, who did not succumb to such temptations even when some of his peers in the continent opted to engage in looting their own treasuries and transferring the money to foreign accounts.

Things have definitely taken a different turn after the first phase government. The level of corruption has been on the rise and the monster went berserk after the introduction of political and economic reforms in the 1990s.

The unfolding story about Tanzanians with billions of money in the Swiss banks might be an important eye opener. It is precisely for this reason that the report which has come at a time when our legislators are having a headache of trying to work out a feasible budget is too important to be taken for granted.

There is no doubt that the story being discussed here has some credibility. First, the media house which has published it has as reputation of observing professional ethics. Second, their source is the International Police Organsation (INTERPOL), which is reported to be investigating this scam.

It is also encouraging to learn that even our Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) is reportedly aware of this alleged scandal, and is making a follow-up on the matter by contacting Swiss authorities to get more details. The PCCB chief is quoted to have confirmed this and has not yet denied the report.

Surely, Tanzanians are very much interested in three aspects of this affair. First, is the names of politicians and their partners in crime who have opted to betray our motherland for some pieces of silver, nay, millions of dollars and other strong currencies.

There is a betrayal element here. Since such a big amount of money said to belong to six individuals cannot be earned by way of salaries and fringe benefit, the people of this country must have been shortchanged by these local agents that is our distinguished crooks, in favour of foreigners engaged in this kind of a dirty game.

Second, Tanzanians are anxiously waiting to get more details about mining and oil companies reported to have deposited the money in the accounts of local suspects, and for what services rendered.

This information will shed light on which foreign companies operating in the country are involved in corporate malpractices which amount to sabotage. Thereafter, we may hopefully handle the foreign investors we tend to regard as our economic saviours with caution.

The task of getting the required details cannot be underestimated, given the secrecy of foreign banks which make a fortune from being custodians of money obtained from dubious activities of this nature.

Foreign companies engaged in these malpractices are also aware of the impact of being exposed and will consequently use their money power to protect their interests. This, however, does not mean that unearthing the required details in the interest of justice is impossible.

The third interest of Tanzanians in this saga is to see the law taking its course to ensure the suspects enjoy their day in court and, if found guilty, get the punishment they deserve. The media, upright politicians and crusaders against corruption, have a responsibility of ensuring this story does not end in an anti-climax.

Here is another opportunity for the fourth phase government to show its determination to fight corruption and for our beloved President to prove wrong all those who call him a weak leader.

Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant [email protected]

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