To avoid wrongful PI slapping, partnerships should be fully voluntary

03Sep 2019
Editor
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
To avoid wrongful PI slapping, partnerships should be fully voluntary

A STERN warning has been issued by the Minister for Home Affairs, Kangi Lugola to officials of the Immigration Department to stop being used by unscrupulous Tanzanian business people in a dirty game where upon the behests of a local investor, a foreign investor is harassed and finally deported.

The minister was opening a two-day workshop for senior Immigration officers at the Tanzania Regional Immigration Training Academy (TRITA) in Moshi, where he said he was aware that the department was being used to frustrate investors. It is not perhaps too frequent but it tarnishes the country’s image.

The minister explained that the dirty game involves Tanzanians who have taken up business joint ventures or partnerships with foreigners as local shareholders, something he said is in certain areas required by law. But after the business picks up, the supposed partners seek the help of unscrupulous officials at Immigration to slap the foreign partner with the dreaded Prohibited Immigrant (PI) notice. With the partner kicked out for some imaginary suspicion or charge the local shareholder remains with the entire business. Evidently the facilitating official would be assured of a tidy commission for the work.

How far such habits can be controlled by ministerial fiat or caution as in the present instance is unclear, as wrong doers look at the full breadth of the law to find space in which to insert mischief. One such areas was alluded to by the minister, namely that in various regards partnerships are required by law, which implies that the foreign businessman is by law a subordinate to the local partner. He has no equal rights with the local fellow so long as his residence rights or ownership of a business is tied to goodwill.

When the minister urges Immigration Department officials to ensure that investors should not be harassed – as one can’t say should not be harassed without reason, as this is to stammer, to accept bona fide harassment of some kind – what mechanism is there to ensure that PI aren’t just slapped? And is the bad thing about PI notices issued for personal interest and pecuniary consideration just what they imply for the prestige or image of the country? The image is harmed but it also tells a lot about ease of doing business at present, especially if such a victim of wrongful PI was compelled to seek a partner.

It is clear as the minister pointed out that the habit of harassing and then expelling investors impedes efforts by President John Magufuli to attract investors as Tanzania strives to become a middle income economy towards the end of the president’s mandate. Immigration Department officials and the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Service cannot be hired by low level individuals but upper class personalities, so it is organized crime. The minister did not say how widespread it is at present, though.

Compelling investors to pick partnerships has negative consequences when the level of trust between them is insufficient but only compelled by law. It is a good thing that the government has taken notice of that, but relaxing terms of initiating a business is vital as well, as when the security of a foreign investor depends on a local partner, that is an ‘invitation to treat’ with those who detain stamps and signatures for PI notices. The law is designed to facilitate government decisions, but it may also foster criminality.