The government yesterday issued the first 46 national identity cards to top government leaders and high profile personalities, marking a milestone in the registration and identification of Tanzanians which had stalled for over 30 years.
Among those issued with IDs during the inauguration ceremony in Dar es Salaam were former and current top government leaders, leaders of special groups, religious, business and military and some other nationals’ representing Dar es Salaam, Kilombero and Zanzibar.
Among the current government leaders who received their IDs were President Jakaya Kikwete, Inspector General of Police Said Mwema, Isles First Vice President Seif Shariff Hamad, Home Affairs minister Dr Emannuel Nchimbi, Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Meck Saddick, President’s wife Salma Kikwete and the Dar es Salaam City mayor, Didas Masaburi.
As for former government leaders were former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa, and ex-president of Zanzibar Amani Abeid Karume.
Others were former prime ministers Salim Ahmed Salim, Joseph Warioba and long time Chama Cha Mapinduzi cadre and minister Kingunge Ngombale Mwiru.
Others more were former prime minister’s wife Esther Sumaye and Fatma Karume, who is the wife of the late Zanzibar president Abeid Karume.
Those in special groups included IPP Executive Chairman Dr Reginald Mengi, National Social Security Fund (NSSF) director general Dr Ramadhan Dau, PPF director general William Erio, Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) chairperson Esther Mkwizu, Civic United Front (CUF) national chairman Prof Ibrahim Lipumba and Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe.
Others were Tanzania Non Governmental Organization (Tango) director Evold Mmanda and chairperson of the Society for People with Disabilities, Lupi Maswanya.
Among the religious leaders were the Head of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania Bishop Dr Alex Malasusa, Dar es Salaam Region Bakwata leader Sheikh Alhad Musa and a Bohra representative.
Members of the press were not forgotten as Tanzania Editors’ Forum chairman Absalom Kibanda was also issued his identity card.
Speaking at the event President Jakaya Kikwete warned government officials involved in the exercise to be cautious when implementing it so as to ensure the cards do not fall into the hands of foreigners.
The government officials include those in the National Identification Authority (NIDA), ward executive offices, Immigration Department, Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA) and the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
President Kikwete said the officials should not repeat what took place during the issuance of passports in the past.
Tanzania has witnessed cases whereby foreigners hold Tanzanian passports, which is illegal, he explained, saying: “Some dishonest officials at the Immigration Department issue passports to foreigners for bribes …without thinking of the negative impacts their acts would have on the nation.”
He therefore directed the officials to immediately take strong legal measures against anyone furnishing false information on the IDs, urging Tanzanians to be patriotic and ethical so as to ensure the exercise succeeds.
“It has cost the government a lot to issue these IDs…it has taken a long time but today everyone is witnesses to the work done,” he said.
“…I will never forgive any servant who violates the laid down rules and gives and ID to a foreigner as this would have a big impact on this nation,” he insisted.
He directed the agency to effectively use village and ward officers in identifying residents, calling on them to provide enough cooperation to make the exercise a success.
The President was upbeat that: “…the process of working on the national IDs started some years ago, whereby the government encountered many challenges including selfishness among officials who intentionally hindered the process.”
National IDs have a positive impact on the government, private sector and the society in general. Some citizens have been missing various benefits including loans and even schooling opportunities for students because of lack of identity cards.
The President assured NIDA that the government will boost its budget and human resources so as to speed up the issuance of IDs to all the citizens before the elections in 2015, saying he has already directed the finance minister to do so.
“…no one can stop the exercise...it must end before the election because the voters will have to use the IDs in the election…other issues can be postponed but not this one…we don’t have a choice, we have taken too long.”
Earlier, Home Affairs Minister Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi said the system will easily help institutions to verify citizens.
Dr Nchimbi said so far the authority has implemented different activities which include, having an engineer create a registry and a people’s identification system for which a Malaysia based company IRIS, Behard has been working on.
He also said the agency has secured a plot where it is going to construct a data centre and disaster recovery site. It also has plans to build district offices.
NIDA Director General Dickson Maimu said registration of citizens started as a pilot project last year with civil servants in Zanzibar and Tanzania Mainland as well as for Kilombero and Dar es Salaam residents.
He assured Tanzanians that information collected will remain secret, appealing to them to fully participate and provide enough cooperation to agency officials when the exercise start in other areas.