Top priority - mining matter, matter!

09Oct 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Commentary
Top priority - mining matter, matter!

Jambo and greetings after many months absence from Tanzania, but the practical problems of my comings and goings, haven’t lessened over the years, and strangely, the rutted dirt tracks in the area of Mbezi beach where I stay, seem to ..........

worsen over time, despite the expensive dwellings that misguidedly define the area as ‘big shot territory’. 

 So with over twenty years of nil development, I might pray for a  ‘Magufuli miracle’ to give us a little  road...or even bits of one!. But miracles aside, a lot’s been happening here in my absence, not least of which are the mining related issues that received some coverage, albeit biased, in the western press.

This reminded me of the days, when right wing UK papers if they ever covered this part of Africa at all, often referred to Mwalimu  as “…Socialist dictator Julius Nyerere”.     On  stepping down as leader, one of the few on the continent to do so, he then became “…retired socialist dictator”, and predictably in death “… deceased socialist dictator”…so much for  media balance, and have there been no capitalist dictators also?.  

…but back to the mining issues.    Some weeks ago in London, I was sent a recent UK press cutting headed “Petra hit by Tanzania diamonds crackdown”, and the clue to the headline we were told,  lay in the name, “as the populist President Magufuli, is known  by his devotees as the Bulldozer… though mining executives played down the prospect of him clobbering (i.e. hitting) the sector with tax rises”.

The article said that Incurring the wrath of “an increasingly combative Tanzanian government, sent Petra’s shares in the London listed mine, into a sharp reverse - and their plight echoes that of Acacia mining,  also fighting for survival, after losing 51% of its value this year, when accused of dramatically undervaluing the gold content of its exports, which they deny doing.”

Analysts and academics have apparently dismissed Acacia’s (part of Barrack Gold) tax evasion charge, with one saying “Given Tanzania’s history of improbable accusations against Acacia, we’ll be backing Petra’s side of the story, not that it will help them”.

Well, this country has their own reputable academics and analyists, who not surprisingly, might have opposite views to their western counterparts.    One such economist  from the University of Dar es Salaam, Benedict  Mahona says “Global operating companies are systematically plundering Africa’s diamond wealth, and only a fraction of the stones are properly declared, and with duty paid on them”, but added with honesty, “Diamond theft almost always occurs with the help of corrupt locals”.

Conversely, Rebekka Rumpel, a natural resources expert from the right wing think-tank Chatham House in London,  quoted in the UK paper,  remarked that “…with its tough approach, the Tanzanian government runs the risk of international companies withdrawing their businesses …which will impact negatively on the country’s image.”  

…Doubled standards….do we ever hear that the mega multi misdeeds of the US, which included the 2008 financial holocaust, and the fiscal mayhem that it globally caused up to now…ever “impacted on them negatively”?!  

Yet again, this patronizing message implies that third world leaders should accommodate unfettered foreign investment at any cost, or woe betide the economic health of the nation, if they try policing such companies.…it’s advice that’s almost a polite form of neo colonial control, allowing plunder by default!  

But back to that news clip,  which concludes “…it remains to be seen how his (Magufuli’s) clamp-down on mining companies,  sits with his policy of exploiting Tanzania’s natural resources… in an economy that has grown rapidly in the past decade,  yet 70% of the population still live on less than $2 a day”. But who’s doing the exploiting, and who’s the exploited?

Surely, it’s by  exploiting THEIR positions, that the mining companies have been able to undervalue their exports etc.,    So  if curtailing this  longstanding practice, enables the President to control  and capitalize on the nations resources, and the good running there of ...where’s the conflict, with a policy that ultimately boosts the tax coffers.    As already stated, developing countries have long been expected to go easy on foreign investors in case they pull out, but can failure to comply with this, really be described as being ‘combative’, I don’t think so, and  it seems the “tough” approach here, has paid off, with mining bosses ready for deal-doing and dialogue.

 … this could include the issue of  corrupt locals who are active in  diamond theft, and foreign bosses could score points and credits in  future government negotiations…by keeping such pillaging natives in check, however illustrious their status!.   …they mostly won’t be the skinny shanked miners working in their ‘chupis’,  (underpants) but the slick suited portly parasites… so how satisfying to see them nabbed!   

 …time to close, but joking apart, given the contentious history of the extractive industries, I’m backing the President on this one, and with echoes of Mwalimu’s philosophy in mind ”…if it doesn’t benefit the nation, let it stay in the ground till it can”… long may Magufuli bulldoze and vanquish for victory!

Photo caption:  Discussing mining matters…President John Magufuli after talks with Barrack Gold Chairman Prof. John L. Thornton (L) at the State House in Dar es Salaam earlier in the year.    Right is the Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Prof. Palamagamba Kabudi.