Public concern over land grabbing has reached new heights as politicians are reported to be among leading land grabbers at the expense of public amenities.
The concern was raised during a meeting between the Speaker of the National Assembly, Anne Makinda and African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) team led by barrister Adele Muna.
Bernard Dasah, a member of continental level APRM team told the meeting that was attended by chairpersons of some parliamentary standing committees and their deputies, that it was a public outcry that political leaders were visibly acquiring huge pieces of land.
“You should be aware that this is what is being said out there, we have met people and are saying it very clearly. We are just bringing the message to you our brothers and sisters,” noted Dasah.
However APRM member a Nigerian national, could not give details or elaborate data on the matter.
But the remarks sparked off reaction from the legislator for Ilala, Mussa Azzan ‘Zungu’ who said that politicians were not the only people who owned large pieces of land.
“Let me say here that sometimes APRM collects information from politically frustrated people who utter unfounded claims and then such information is brought here,” lamented Zungu.
The MP who also serves as vice chairman of the parliamentary standing committee for Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence underlined that APRM should come up with recommendations and the way forward on various matters raised, instead of just addressing weaknesses.
He stated: “We all know that matters under this discussion are internal but we expect APRM to advise so as to have them solved, for instance in the mining sector we have problems of mining contracts which benefit the nation very little and we would like to get rid of them. While we try to find the way out let APRM tell these multinational companies that ‘look here, you are exploiting these people.’
Tanzania is reported to be ranked third in Africa among gold producers after South African and Ghana but the main criticism to the government has consistently been that policies and laws governing mining are not tight enough, leading to investors’ benefits as opposed to the country’s gains.
Another matter which was discussed at length was the country’s position on refugees as the APRM continental team posed questions on how refugees were handled especially on the claim that they were a major source of environmental destruction.
Deo Haule Filikunjombe, the vice-chairman of the parliamentary standing committee for Public Organisations Accounts Committee (POAC), said for a number of years Tanzania has been a good home for refugees but they did not adhere to norms of the local culture.
“We as a nation rather chose to remain peaceful rather than welcoming refugees to disrupt our peace,” he asserted.
James Lembeli, the chairman of parliamentary standing committee for Lands, Natural Resources and Environment affirmed that the most critical issue in regard to refugees is not environmental degradation, since even local people were part of the malaise through deforestation for charcoal burning.
“It is not the matter of environment. It is about criminology including banditry and use of firearms and sometimes war weapons, which most areas where refugees settled experienced such acts,” intoned Lembeli.
Lembeli’s remarks were echoed by the Speaker Anne Makinda, saying that security in some areas especially the Mwanza to Bukoba road became so critical to the point that no one could travel by road at night.
“We consider them as fellow human beings but having learnt from past experience we refused efforts by international organisations for the refugees to be removed from the camps and be integrated within the community in various areas across the country,” the speaker emphasized.
John Shibuda, MP for Maswa East told the gathering that there was way the country could stop safeguarding its interests and heed to international community which one times in the past superimposed condition to Tanzania to grant citizenship to refugees.
The APRM team also discussed what was seen as confusion emanating from using Kiswahili in House debate while law drafting is conducted in English, raised by Prof. Ahmed Mohiddin, a veteran of Makerere University in Uganda.
Angela Kairuki (Special Seats-CCM), the vice chairperson of the parliamentary committee for Constitution, Legal Affairs and Public Administration, said that English is not it a problem for MPs as they are conversant with the language.
“But for the public interest we have agreed that from now onwards bills will be drafted in both languages (Kiswahili and English) as we did for the Constitution Review Bill. The capacity to so at the Attorney General office has been built therefore there is no worry on the execution of the said work,” she said.
Speaker Makinda told reporters at the end of the discussion that all matters raised in discussions and recommendations made by the continental team would be considered for implementation and the feedback provided.
“This is a positive discussion. It is like somebody telling you that you have not combed your hair properly; in the first place you might be thinking that everything is alright but now you have to correct the mistake,” she declared.