Tanzania's fight against corruption has taken a new turn with the arrests of former government officials, ministers and high profile individuals from early November. Last week for instance, retired Treasury permanent secretary Gray Mgonja was taken to court on allegations of abuse of office and occasioning loss of 11.7b/-. Mr Mgonja is accused of abusing his official authority by arbitrarily ignoring the recommendations made by the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) not to grant tax exemption to M/S Alex Stewart (Assayers) Government Business Corporation company in 2003.
The appearance at the Kisutu court of Mra Mgonja, of the former Minister for Finance Basil Pesambili Mramba and of the former Minister for Energy and Minerals, Daniel Ndhira Yona late last month has increased the stakes in the fight against corruption in Tanzania. The former ministers were brought to court last month over the same scandal.
(Photo of one of the court appearances from Mpoki Bukuku's blog Mzee wa Sumo)
In November in another case 20 suspects including business tycoons and Central Bank senior officials were brought to court on charges of conspiracy, forgery, theft and obtaining credit under false pretence through the Bank of Tanzania (BoT)'s External Payment Arrears (EPA) account. The EPA case involves the theft of billions of shillings from the Bank of Tanzania's External Payments Arrears account.
For the best part of 2008 Tanzanians have been waiting to see how President Jakaya Kikwete handles corruption scandals dogging his government. Since the recent arrests, President Kikwete has received praises, even though some are sceptical and are calling for more heads to roll over numerous high profile corruption allegations.
On December 15th, Dr. Faustine of the blog Faustine's Baraza [Sw] gave a tip that the retired Treasury permanent secretary Gray Mgonja was about to be taken to court that morning on allegations of abuse of office. And Bongo Celebrity [Sw] confirmed later on that indeed Mr. Mgonja had appeared in court. Praising the president one reader wrote:
JK BRAVOOOOO!! Umeshaanza kuandikia historia ambayo haijawahi kuandikwa na kiongozi yeyote, si wa Tanzania, Afrika na pengine pia Ulimwengu. Tunaamini kwamba hii ni hatua muhimu sana ya kwanza ili nchi iweze kupiga maendeleo. Bila kuondoa ufisadi nchi haitaweza kupiga hatua zozote za maendeleo.
HONGERA kwa kazi kubwa. TUNAOMBA mwenyezi Mungu azidi kukupa BUSARA na UJASIRI, kwa kuwa hii vita si rahisi na lele-mama kama ambavyo watu wengine wanadhani.
NAOMBA watanzania wote wapenda maendeleo, bila kujali itikadi, tukumbuke ule umoja wetu tuliofundishwa na Mwalimu tumuunge mkono Rais katika vita hii.
MUNGU IBARIKI Tanzania
CONGRATULATIONS for the great job. WE PRAY that Almighty God continues to give you WISDOM and BRAVERY, for this is not any easy battle like many people think.
I ask all Tanzanians who like development, regardless of their political leaning, we must remember our unity taught to us by Mwalimu (Julius K Nyerere) and let us support our president in this war.
GOD BLESS Tanzania
More hopeful comments were also left in other Tanzanians blogs. In Issa Michuzzi's [Sw] post titled “Breaking neeewwwwwzzzzzz” one comment reads:
Naona mambo yanazidi kuwa mambo. Hawa akina Mgonja waliifanya wizara ya fedha na kodi zetu kuwa shamba la bibi. Ngoja vianze kuwatokea puani. Ngoja sheria ichukue mkondo wake ili liwe fundisho kwa walio kwenye madaraka na wanatumia nafasi zao kuhujumu mali ya umma. Inaweza kusaidia angalau hata kidogo maana hali ilikuwa imefikia pabaya. Mtu anaamua tu kufanya jambo lolote analojisikia ili mradi tu ni mali ya umma. Inasikitisha sana…
While congratulatory comments pour in, others still have doubts about the government's preparedness to go after all high profile figures. In the same post by Issa Michuzi a reader wrote:
hiki ni kiini macho kingine unafikiri kuna cha maana kitakachofanyika zaidi ya kupewa dhamana? halafu kesi kupigwa dana dana hadi watanzania watakaposahau. Kumetokea nini kwa mafisadi wa EPA? wote wako nje kwa dhamana wanakula kuku. vitu kama hivi vinafaidisha vyombo husika vya mahakama kupata posho na hongo kutokana na marekebisho ya masharti ya dhamana. tumeshaushutukia mchezo huu we need to do more and seen to be doing something.
Another sceptic reader at Issa Michuzi's thinks that these corruption charges are part of a political game that started during the last elections:
Nakubaliana na wewe kiasi kidogo kuwa sasa tunaelekea Mahali, Lakini kumbuka kuwa hawa wote wanaopandishwa kizimbani ni kundi la pili ambalo halikuwa upande wa muheshimiwa wakati wa uchaguzi. Hawa walikuwa upande wa Mkapa wakiwa na dhumuni la kumuweka Sumai kwenye kiti hicho. Ambao ndio inasemekana walianzisha fyoko fyoko za Richmond Ili kumuharibia Mkuu asipate tena 2010. Na yeye sasa anawarudia na mbio hizi zinamuelekea Mkapa kama ukichunguza vizuri. Kwahiyo mimi naona huu bado ni mchezo mchafu wa siasa tu.
In all the posts discussing the high profile corruption cases in Tanzania there are calls for more powerful individuals to appear in court. In another post by Issa Michuzi on the EPA case a reader wrote:
Kwa kweli wakamatwe samaki wa aina zote! Nyangumi hadi dagaa! Msituchezee picha halafu mkawaacha nyangumi wakiendelea kututimulia vumbi na ma-epa yao barabarani, na majumba ya mabilioni!…