MPs voice mixed feelings over mining sector bills

04Jul 2017
Polycarp Machira
The Guardian
MPs voice mixed feelings over mining sector bills

MEMBERS of parliament were yesterday divided over the passage of the Natural Wealth and Contracts (Review and Renegotiation of Unconscionable Terms) Act of 2017 and the Natural Wealth and Resources (Permanent Sovereignty) Act of 2017.

 

While all opposition MPs who contributed on the debate argued that there was no need to have the bills tabled under a certificate of urgency, their CCM counterparts maintained that there was no more time to waste and the move is long overdue.

Different opinions on the bills were voiced as the House began debating the crucial legislations aimed at transforming the mining sector.

Tabling the parliamentary committee’s opinion on the bills, chairperson Dotto Biteko said it is important for parliament to endorse the bills since they are expected to bring major desired changes to the mining sector.

He said the government should fast-track the formulation of regulations necessary for immediate implementation of the new laws resulting from the bills.

Biteko, who is MP for Bukombe, also called on the government to put in place refineries and other machinery needed for the processing of raw natural resources within the country and allow local producers to access the services.

“The government t should seek to build strong banking or financial institutions to help serve the big multinational investment companies,” he added.

But tabling the opposition camp’s views on the bills, Mbozi West MP David Silinde (CHADEMA) argued that the urgency and secrecy has not allowed for sufficient public consultations, analysis or debate on the bills. 

He argued that if the government truly wants to ensure the interests of Tanzanians are paramount, it should allow for proper public debate on the bills which have national implications. 

“The bills seem to concentrate decision making powers within the government and the presidency, to the detriment of the people and their representatives in parliament,” Silinde said.

Vwawa MP Japhet Hasunga (CCM) observed that the bills are important and crucial for national development as they recognize the need to protect all natural resources.

“This is one of the greatest steps taken by the government in its efforts to save the country’s natural resources,” Hasunga said.

He called on fellow lawmakers to approve the bills that will see the country practice best mining sector practices found in other countries like Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Africa.

Tarime Rural MP John Heche (CHADEMA) questioned why the bills have been brought to the House under a certificate of urgency, saying that the government could have taken more time to consult with other stakeholders.

“I think the bills have been brought for justification of a person and not because this is the right time,” Heche said. 

Similar feelings were also expressed by Kibamba MP John Mnyika (CHADEMA), who suggested that the bills are being used for political mileage ahead of the 2020 general elections.

“Politicians think about elections while leaders think about generation, and the president has portrayed himself as a politician and not a leader,” Mnyika said, noting that the bills focus on the next five years and not a longer period of time.

Mnyika’s mention of the president prompted government Chief Whip Jennista Mhagama to rise and seek guidance from the deputy speaker, Tulia Ackson, on the use of the president’s name in the House.

According to Mhagama, section 64 of the House Standing Orders forbids any legislator from using the president’s name “wrongly” during chamber debates.

 The deputy speaker responded by telling Mnyika and other MPs to stick to the House rules.Meanwhile, Tabora Urban MP Adamson Mwakasaka (CCM) said the review of the laws governing the mining sector is long overdue.

Arusha MP Godbless Lema (CHADEMA) argued that there is a need for sufficient time to deliberate on the bills, saying any goodwill portrayed by the president is not reflected in the hasty process of passing the documents.

ACT Wazalendo leader and Kigoma Urban MP Zitto Kabwe also called for constructive parliamentary debate on the important bills.

“These are revolutionary bills that will help transform the country’s mining sector, thus we need to put the nation’s interests at heart in our debates,” Zitto noted.

Kigoma North MP Peter Serukamba (CCM) said by introducing the bills, President Magufuli has shown the necessary goodwill. He called calling on fellow MPs to pass the bills without hesitation.

“Today is an economic revolutionary day for Tanzania since the bills tabled here are aimed at tansforming the country further,” Serukamba argued. 

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