MAC: Mines and Communities

Tanzanians are more cursed than blessed!

Published by MAC on 2010-03-10
Source: Africa Files (2010-03-03)

Tanzanians are more cursed than blessed!

Mvuyisi April kaDathini

Africa Files

3 March 2010

Summary & Comment: In this opinion piece the author asks whose interests drive the government and politicians in Tanzania and who is at the heart of policy development and formulation when mining corporations enjoy a better relationship with politicians than their electorates do? He argues that mining companies and government Ministers have missed an opportunity "to repair the damages caused and compensate the poor villagers of their looses" and chosen to advance their own interests in the New Mining Bill. 

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Being born and bred in a village full of minerals is not a blessing for the people of Tanzania. For the majority of people in this country, minerals have for years become a guaranteed source of pain, destruction of lives and the environment than the Creator originally intended them to be. This is the life and future of each Tanzanian child that is born in the villages surrounded by gold rich mines.

Since the discovery of gold in Tanzania about a decade ago, giant mining companies from both North and Southern Countries have benefitted immensely in the operations while thousands of indigenous subsistence miners have gone jobless. In addition to being brutally evicted from their homes and buried alive, other additional costs that the locals have borne in places like Shinyanga are huge holes in the environment which have translated into a series of unaccountable mining dumps; polluted rivers; destruction of vegetation and alleged corruption in government which has been clearly seen in the lack of transparency to contracts awarded to mining companies and tax revenues.

Between the years 1995 - 2005 gold exports from Tanzania have increased to US$2.54 billion with AngloGold Ashanti taking US$1.54 billion in their previous financial year while giving back a mean 3% royalty tax for the huge costs that the people of Tanzania continue to suffer with. Local organisations like the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Lawyer's Environmental Action Team (LEAT) and others have taken up the people's matter to themselves while being backed by the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT); Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) and Baraza Kuu la Waislamu Tanzania (BAKWATA), but to this day the plight of the people in these villages remain and their cries have fallen in deaf ears.

Many believe that the gold revenues in Tanzania could be able to solve most of the problems facing the country and be able to finance the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUKUTA). Some analysts have predicted a tripling income in the mining sector from $100million to $300million by 2014 while veteran activists for economic justice differ with this as just another government-shut-your-mouth incentive compared to what the mining companies make from the country's minerals.

This year on the Tanzanian Budget Day, the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors has approved an International Development Association credit of USD190 million to support implementation of Tanzania's National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUKUTA). This loan aimed at financing the government budget was reduced from an initial indicative of USD200 million and will unfortunately be spent without transparency to the rest of the population as it has always been with other revenue generating means like tax revenues.

Despite a decline in Tanzania's ranking on the Cost of Doing Business and on the World Competitiveness indicators; the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability assessment and the UK Department for International Development's Public Financial Management risk assessment having downgraded Tanzania; its ranking by Transparency International fallen; and the 2008 Country Policy and Institutional Assessment rating, though still relatively high at 3.8, has also been revised downward by 0.1 points. Progress on the government's main private sector development and public financial reform programs has been rated unsatisfactory by development partners as have two other core reforms, namely legal and local government. (Business Desk: 11 June 2009).

"Every year we see increased poverty and under development while parliamentarians get new German imported cars with the old ones still in excellent conditions. This clearly shows that the where the heart of government is...not in the people but themselves." said one of the citizens. As one of the custodians of the Millenium Development Goals which the MKUKUTA programme seeks to achieve, Tanzania is expected to deliver on its undertakings by 2015, but with the huge dependency in debt from World Bank, of which most will go to politicians luxurious benefits, none of these goals will be met.

Minerals in Tanzania are not for Tanzanians benefit but the countries and their citizens whose mining companies operate in Tanzania including Britain; Canada and South Africa. As indicated by the Mining Agreement between Pangea Minerals Limited (a subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corporation) and the government of the Republic of Tanzania for the development of a gold mine at Buzwagi, Kahama, "... it is of extraordinary benefit to Barrick while offering decidedly little to Tanzanians.

The questions still remains as to whether the current cut in the mining sector is fair to the ordinary Tanzanian citizen who m on average would take 500 years to make up the US$9.4million salary package, a Barrick CEO, Greg Wilkins, earns. Can the country be able to provide enough and adequate basic services for its citizens? Can mining ever be accountable if the legislation favours them more than the citizens that voted the government to office? Will the revenue collected ever be able to repair the damages and costs borne by the local communities if the mines can't even allow them the opportunity to generate income by provide services to them, more over compensating them for their loss of lives?

Are foreign loans as granted by the World Bank to finance the country's budget the way to meet the needs of the ordinary Tanzanian? Are they not a guarantee of a continous cycle of debt that even the yet to be born child will have a burden to pay? Are we as a country so kind and generous to give away what is supposed to sustain our children and our future generations - our only inheritance - to rich countries in exchange for loss of lives and poverty? Or we just didn't see it coming? I am intersted to know!

Recently and after a huge outcry by citizens in North Mara and Parliamentarians, Barrick Gold deceided to open up their coffers and make some of their Africa Barrick Gold (BG) company available to the so called 'public'. This comes at critical time when the cards are on the table for the review on the Mining Legislations prior to the general elections in a few months time.

In absence of trustworthy information as to what led to this decision, one can only believe that this more is nothing more than a tactical strategy to buy the top politicians who will in turn have a final say on how the New Mining Bill comes out as a final legislation from Parliament. These custodians of the citizens' well being were part of the negotiation process which has seen the being on the top of the potential buyers list - as newspapers report - even before the public knew on the formation of the new company as well as the structure of its shareholders.

The process- after the same Departmental Heads of Minerals were flown to Cape Town and accommodated for almost two weeks at Barrick's expense to be part of the luxurious Mining Indaba as well as the African Mining Partnership - raises questions of the amount of genuines of their relationship and who's interests drive the politicians and government - citizens of corporates? The proceedes of the sale of these ABG shares of whom the majority of impoverished Tanzanians have no access to, would have been better used to clean up the pollution that the company did in North Mara last year and compensate the villagers for the damages caused and the looses they incured as a result, were it not for the few using it as a guarantee of their lavish lives at the end of their political terms.

Critically asking again, who's interests drive the government and politicians in Tanzania? Who's at the heart of policy development and formulation if corporates enjoy a better relationship with the political heads more than their electorates do? Is this case in question then and the presence of mineral wealth in the country a blessing to the rest of the population?

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