We argued that, at a certain point in time, the port was indeed one of Tanzania’s most important income-generation ‘projects’. As we put it then, it was one of the few key revenue earners that the country could count on, what with the concerted efforts made to ensure that its operations ran to satisfaction.
Alongside handling the country’s exports and imports, the port was easily the most accessible – if not the only – gateway for landlocked Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Zambia and later Uganda and Malawi.
While things ran smoothly, though, a number of challenges were seen stalking and threatening to suffocate the facility. There were reports of the situation degenerating all the more in the late 1980s.
In part, this manifested itself in stubborn congestions as well as cases of endemic pilferage and a decline in efficiency that made some loyal clients keep away in preference for other options. Many did so reluctantly, of course, in that relocating meant abandoning familiar ground and starting afresh in uncharted territory.
Seeing one of its key revenue sources going under before its own eyes, Tanzania went scrambling for solutions, one of which was to lease out the port’s container service to a private operator. But even after this measure a lot more had to be done.
In one of its economic updates, the World Bank reported that inefficiency at the Dar es Salaam Port was costing the country the equivalent to an estimated 2.9 trillion/- a year.
“The port of Dar es Salaam is characterised by a long dwell time, taking ten days on average to unload merchandise, clearing and transporting it from the port,” it noted.
“The excessive dwell time is mainly due to slow processes, including customs clearance processing and excessive storage periods,” it added.
It was decisive at that juncture to support efforts by the government, the Transport ministry in particular, meant to end the problems facing the port. Fortunately, measures designed and implemented by the ministry towards that end showed positive results right from the initial stage.
It was crucial for the health of our social and economic development to maintain and even step up the momentum of reforming the all-important port, at least if we were to fully exploit its potential.
The Tanzania Ports Authority was meanwhile understood to be working on the modernisation of seven berths at the facility, the plan including the strengthening and deepening of berths, installation of conveyor belts for bulk cargo handling, the development of a bulk liquid custody transfer tank farm in Dar es Salaam’s Mjimwema suburb, and the procurement of a floating dock.
The measures sought to boost efficiency at the port for more handsome revenue collections in subsequent years but with biggest challenge in the short term relating to ensure that the port’s image was restored – including by flushing out from the facility’s payroll all those confirmed to have engaged in corrupt activities or anything leading to the reported decline in efficiency and revenue.
There was also the challenge of heeding recommendations and demands stakeholders kept making that the port become more inclusive, preferably through the incorporation of small and medium enterprises in its plans.
Too bad, we have not been kept adequately posted on the headway made in implementing all these plans and recommendations. All the same, we stand convinced that it is still of fundamental importance that Tanzanians see stepped-up efficiency at our ports, airports and all other service centres and facilities – and the sooner this prevails, the better for the nation.
Raising of public awareness on human rights must be sustained
WHATEVER progress advocacy and other agencies have made over the decades in addressing the citizenry’s pervasive ignorance as relates to basic human rights and the complications resulting from that lack of crucial knowledge is laudable.
It is regrettable, though, that however noticeable or appreciable the rise in public awareness has been has not translated always much into many enough people actually pursuing their rights to what one might call the logical conclusion
As witnessed and reported time and again, some of the lectures, case studies on real-life experiences and subsequent views from the floor punctuating some of the advocacy and sensitization seminars and workshops have often left the audience in shock and disbelief.
Cases in point include harrowing narrations about how the rich and powerful use their might and influence with virtual impunity to oppress and dehumanise the poor and weak.
To their credit, public institutions like the Commission for Good Governance and Human Rights have had occasion to address situations of this nature by exposing such transgressions and demanding concrete remedial action from the relevant state agencies.
But if truth be said, follow-up action has seldom quenched the public’s – as people commonly expect more concrete intervention in terms of ensuring justice for all through the safeguarding and promotion of the rule of law.
And why not, when some of the very people supposed and expected to dispense justice blatantly deny the hapless poor even the very basic rights just because corruption and insensitivity to oppression and misery have grown such deep roots that offenders can be sure to go unpunished?
There have been relentless appeals to the government and other stakeholders to do their utmost to come to the immediate rescue people whose rights are violated without even the victims knowing that they have been denied rights legally guaranteed internationally and by Tanzania’s own Constitution and other laws.
Admittedly, the calls have had some impact – but not much, particularly for residents of rural areas seldom reached by human rights crusaders.
It’s therefore only fair to underscore the need for the government and all other relevant authorities and agencies to ensure that our people fully appreciate the importance of fighting for their rights regardless of how rich, powerful or influence the violators are. The law should, indeed, ensure justice for all.