Govt gets tough to protect Kilombero. Where was the government before? Can it prevent violence?

August 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Kadulyu’s comment to the article which appeared on http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/component/content/article/37-tanzania-top-news-story/25076-govt-gets-tough-in-bid-to-protect-kilombero.html

I do agree that we need to protect our large ecosystem sites for long term sustainability. The question is how and when to do that. And also realizing the challenges of increasing population, scale illiteracy among our people, global warming and environmental degradation through human activities.

People movements to seek for greener pastures hasn’t started today neither will it end tomorrow! few hundreds of years ago the population of Africa was very small compared to now and at time the continent was just sparsely populated. But over time development has continuously been evolving resulting into relatively better life, productivity and fertility. We are continuously having  more mouths to feed and more kids to take to school, etc.

Amidst exponential growth of social demands and sustainability of life supported by a diminishing or limited resources, how can we intelligently  tackle the issues of greener pastures seekers? The whole problem is more complicated than just expelling livestock keepers from the wetlands and other reserved lands but how can we do that and where do we take them? Livestock industry can benefit people and get them out of poverty if modern ways keeping them is embraced. Currently livestock seem to be a curse to us same as gold and oil in Africa. We seem not ready to benefit out of even good things we possess, what a country? What a continent?

Wasukuma and Masai are universally known of their proud culture of keeping livestock. Down 50 years of independence no steps have proactively been taken years over to help these traditional livestock keepers adopt to new ways keeping livestock and turn them into money making machines. Sukuma and Masai are still using the old traditional ways of raising and tending cattle characterized by poor productivity and low quality farm products. The number of cattle outgrows the base to support them a reason why they continue to move and look for an alternative. Low literacy amongst livestock keepers challenges absorption of new knowledge and ideas of how one can improve productivity. Among all the challenges illiteracy is an insurmountable barrier to improving livestock industry in the country.

So instead employing reactionary measures which only end up being violent and plunge our people into even abject poverty, we should think of the more sustainable way of handling this sensitive issue. Livestock immigrants did not start overnight, it was a gradual process, they feel now settled. If they do have thousands of animals as the article puts it, then a quickly rushed decision may prove to be disastrous. It has to be a gradual process including creating awareness to the importance of this ecological bank.

The best solution would be a gradual resettlement while reducing the number of cattle per household and replacing such with an alternative activity or economic benefits. They started moving there in a day broad light, they did not just sneak in. The responsible local district councils (Kilombero and Ulanga) saw it as early as it started but yet they did not take any plausible action to prevent it. It started small, resolving it timely would require less effort and resources. Now, as late as it is it requires the central government, regional admin, Districts admin, security organs etc. Tax payer’s money is going to be spent, not in thousands but in millions of tax payers’ money. It may end up being violent as well or potentially resulting into injury, loss of lives and properties. I urge all responsible colleagues to employ what it takes to avoid injury or loss of lives and sustainably seek to relocate our fellow citizens peacefully.

Muli bwanji Friends in Malawi, Yes, it is possible to avert war between our countries

August 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Below is my personal response to an article on http://www.nyasatimes.com/malawi/2012/08/15/tanzania-war-threats-on-lake-malawi-the-folly-of-human-wisdom/

I personally take your concern positively. The challenge here is who started pinching the other. Both countries from day one of their independence knew that the border between them is problematic. As we all read from various documents and history the border question between the two countries is an overdue challenge which calls for an immediate solution, the existing ambiguity has been there for too long.  In a good neighborliness spirit therefore Neither Malawi nor Tanzania can take a unanimous decision to use the resources in the lake without prior consultations.

Tanzania through its Petroleum development agency discovered that Malawi have fully allocated Lake Malawi/Lake Nyasa to blocks for oil exploration. I am pretty sure Malawi government understands the contention around this border issue, it could have been therefore wise to consult Tanzania and seek an amicable solution prior to engaging foreign companies to explore resources in such a contested area. UK and Germany pretty know well about this.  It is sad that a UK-based company Surestream Petroleum (http://www.surestream-petroleum.com/our_activities) has been awarded contract by Malawi to conduct oil exploration and did not take due diligence to understand political surroundings of the lake.

Lake Nyasa/Malawi is a direct shared resources to three countries, Mozambique have some stake also in the same. The lake is also an eco-habitat of rare species of marine life, to preserve this God given treasure any major economic undertaking in the water should be thoroughly interrogated to the level that all three countries agree for such activity to be carried out and that both are coordinated to respond in case of any ensuing crisis potential to threatening the ecosystem of the lake.

My understanding, perhaps I am wrong, Malawi government officials stubbornly decided to go ahead with the exploration activities in a full knowledge that they will provoke the other side.  This did not sound good to Tanzania. It implied, in  a way that Malawi is prepared for any eventuality and it won’t halt activities even in the contested area in whatever manner Tanzania would react.

The history betrays both countries. Both countries know the relationship between the two were acrimonious in the 60 and 70s. The border and the fact that Malawi sided with the minority rule in South Africa at a time Tanzania supported armed struggle against the minority rules in the region, were principle issues separating the two countries. And both countries understood it wasn’t the right time to sit on a negotiating table. During Mkapa’s and Mluzi’s era in Tanzania and Malawi respectively two countries had a golden window of opportunity to resolve the border issue but for reasons unknown to me it did not happen! We lost it.

It is still not too late to sit down and talk and hopefully resolve bilaterally. If Malawi and Tanzania focus on the interest of their people especially those who naturally, and since historical times to date, continue to benefit out of this resource, can resolve the stalemate easily. But guess what, if both countries don’t employ wisdom and calmness and restraint from further provocative exchange of words and Malawi continue to carry on assumed whole ownership of the lake and with the activities coded as acts of aggression by Tanzania, we may both be bracing for difficult times ahead. After all If both countries stick to their guns it is difficult to control who will pull the trigger first!

Sheria mpya ya mafao ya wafanyakazi haikuzingatia mazingira na mikataba ya ajira

August 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Social Security Regulatory Authority (SSRA) has recently been formed in Tanzania to regulate functions and conducts of social security fund schemes in Tanzania. As a result a law was passed in April 2012 to review the conduct of the funds including restricting early withdraw of members money until when they reach their voluntary or compulsory retirement ages, i.e. 55yrs and 65yrs. Here are my views on how the new law did not consider the diverse employment terms under which those employed work in. The implementation of the new law as it is now will seriously compromise the economic rights of employees.

The following are my views:

  1.  I think the law did not consider the nature of employment in private organizations. There is no permanent employment in a similar arrangements like in government or public sector where people are permanently employment to their retirement age. In private organizations most of the contract are short term, some for months and some for 1 – 5 years. We need to inquire more to understand and explore legal ways if any for people to withdraw their reserves once their contract expires. Otherwise it seems the law has been purposely formulated to protect those who keep the funds rather than the workers. It makes little sense for someone who works for, say 2 years, doesn’t secure another formal employment thereafter yet make them suffer for the rest of their lifetime until they reach 55.
  2. After the expiry of a fixed term employment contract it isn’t automatic that a person will secure another employment neither does the government guarantee another employment to this person immediately. There is a possibility therefore that one may not secure a formal employment qualifying him/her to continuously make savings in a pension scheme. Should this person wait until he/she is 55 to start enjoying his savings? So if you are 30 you have to wait for 25 years?
  3. Some employing firms/sectors are here for a short term for example construction, NGOs/CSOs, Mining, DFP projects etc. They’ll therefore wind up their businesses before an employer reaches his/her retirement age. There won’t be anybody to process documents for their ex-employees at the material time, the new law should consider the modus operandi of such organizations.
  4. The most discouraging thing is that government officials and politicians do have access to these funds even without being members of such schemes at the first place. Some of the social funds have invested members’ money in questionable projects mostly influenced by political leaders rather than factors which would financially benefit the funds and consequently the members. There is no clear trade off benefits for workers to say yes we can forgo withdrawing money now for such and such benefits in shorter, medium and longer terms. This isn’t clear at all. It is said that SSRA will come up with a way workers can use their reserve as collateral to the commercial banks for loans. The question is, why didn’t that come in the same framework of the new law?
  5. We have noticed in recent and past times that the pension scheme parastatals (NSSF, PPF, LGPF etc) are not exercising due diligence in investing these monies. Some politicians and influential government officials are heard to have taken soft loans from these organizations despite the fact that they are not members to the respective schemes. There isn’t a careful vetting system before a particular project is adopted to ensure risks and pensioners interests are taken into consideration. The conduct/governance of these organizations have been questioned at many occasions. Even the previous law gave these funds almost exclusive powers to do anything with pensioners money. Employees of these schemes (NSSF, PPF etc.) are given loans of up to more than shs 80million yet it is not clear as to how an individual pensioner can access loan from his/her respective savings.
  6. Let us be realistic, on average how much money does the member have in these social security funds? Will the amount provide enough security for a commercial bank to issue a loan for a decent residential house? Banks give loans to make profit through interest, what business plan will the early retired employee give to the bank to justify giving him/her money? Interesting to understand how SSRA or the new law will broker this deal!
  7. How much (in %age) interest will members’ fund get at the 55th year or 65th year? What benefit do members get out of the gigantic investments made by their respective funds? How does the law protect the members from their funds being misused or invested in white elephant projects? How does the law prevent interference from politicians? The stake of these funds belong to the members/workers, how does the law make the CEOs of these schemes accountable to the holders of these funds?
  8. Protecting workers interest: TheDirector General of SSRA has alluded  that the government concern is to protect workers’ interest. In normal terms interest means something likable to the concerned person. I am not sure what SSRA says to be an interest is really of interest to workers. There was no mutual consultations before to really ascertain what are the matters of interest to the workers as far as the conduct of pension schemes is concerned. The pretext/basis/premises of forming this law seem not to be genuine as those us whom the law purport to protect our interest are not happy.
  9. My last point is on the overall governance of the schemes: The conduct/governance of the pension funds have been questioned at many occasions. I think even the previous law gave these funds almost exclusive powers to do anything with pensioners money without seamless accountability. How can for example the CEO of NSSF, PPF, LGPF, etc. be responsible to those who keep their money there? Which authority should appoint them to ensure independence and professionalism is promoted in day to day running of the funds? How should politicians and government officials keep their hands off and avoid interfering with the conducts of these organizations?

THE ONE BILLION DOLLAR QUESTION: How Can Tanzania Stop Losing So Much Tax Revenue?

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

The One Billion Dollar Question is a product of the study commissioned by the interfaith committee to establish the magnitude of tax revenue losses in Tanzania and to recommend measures to minimize such losses. The report estimates that Tanzania one of the poorest countries in the world is losing around 1 billion dollar in tax revenue annually mostly through tax evasion, capital flight and tax incentives.

Please get on it for more information. Thanks to the Interfaith Standing Committee on Economic Justice and the
Integrity of Creation organized under the auspices of religious leaders from TEC, BAKWATA, CCT and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) for supporting and financing the study.

ONEBILLIONDOLLARQUESTION

For more information please contact Christian Council of Tanzania.

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