Judegment Day At The High Court London

Judegment Day At The High Court London
Mengi v Hermitage: Libel Claim Successfully Defended

Monday, 17 August 2009



In November 2005 I went to Tanzania to visit Stewart Middleton and Sarah Hermitage who live in Moshi. It was my dream holiday for which I had saved for years. Nothing could have prepared me for the horrors of my stay.

On the third day of my visit to the farm I was terrified by Benjamin Mengi arriving at the gates to my friends farm stating that he was the owner of it. Eight persons four of whom were in police uniforms and armed with sub machine guns accompanied the Regional Police Commander for Moshi, Kighondo. The arms were clearly in view and clearly for the purpose of inflicting terror on us all. The Regional Crime Officer stated he was there to secure Mr. Mengi's entry onto the farm despite the fact that there were no criminal issues with which to concern the police. Kighondo stated that Mengi owned the farm, despite the fact that he had sight of a court order restraining Mr. Mengi from entering the farm and a valid assignment Deed stating that Mengi did not, own the farm.

On being refused entry onto the farm Mr Mengi launched into a vicious, frenzied and racist attack against my friends stating that he was going to take the farm from them by any means and that they should go back to South Africa (an openly racist statement given my friends are British) where they belonged. He finished his tirade by stating that assignment or no assignment he was going to drive my friends out of Tanzania by any means whatsoever and would bring the villagers onto the farm with Pangas (Machetes) to drive them out of Tanzania by any means whatsoever. Mengi stated that my friends would never prove any criminal charges brought against him as, the police, were in his hands as he was black and they were white and he would spend his last chicken, driving them out of Tanzania.

I was absolutely terrified by the events. This was two days into my dream holiday and I simply could not believe that I could be witness to a senior police officer supported by armed guards facilitating and condoning this terrifying conduct against my friends and their staff.

The horror did not stop there and I was subjected to further terror whilst shopping for gifts in Moshi town to take home to my friends and family which was once again, facilitated by the police and further, on this occasion, by the judiciary. Whilst shopping in her husband who told her that he and his manager Mr Able Ngoja had been arrested called Moshi Town with Stewart's wife Sarah Hermitage. I attended the District Court in Moshi with Sarah and established that the men had been arrested on the instructions of the Regional Crime Officer Kighondo once again. The men were not told why they had been arrested, formally charged, cautioned or given access to legal representation.

A representative of the British High Commission attended the scene but was refused any information in this respect. I witnessed the men marched through the streets of Moshi at gunpoint to the Resident Magistrates Court where they were asked to plead to completely trumped up charges subsequently not litigated on the instructions of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Appallingly, the presiding magistrate seemed little concerned at the absence of a charge sheet or legal representation. The men were not told who the complainant in the case was but I noted on the court file, that Benjamin Mengi was marked on the file as the complainant.

The following day libellous articles appeared in high profile newspapers owned by IPP Media such as the Guardian stating that the men had been involved in serious offences of dishonesty including attempting to defraud a famous local businessman Mr. Benjamin Mengi and forging the lease to their farm. This later charge was not even read out in court. I know, I was there.

In a letter dated 22nd November 2005, the former British High Commissioner to the country Andrew Pocock stated to the then Director of Criminal Investigation, Mr. Adadi Rajabu there is no evidence that Mr. Middleton had broken Tanzanian law in any way. He is not a criminal. The incident was an overt and unashamed, blatant and corrupt manipulation of the Moshi police and Judiciary and the events to me, were more familiar with daily life in Zimbabwe rather than investor friendly Tanzania.

I am concerned, that the Tanzanian government has preferential debt status vis-à-vis the UK and receives large amounts of aid from the country. The UK is a major investor in Tanzania and its largest bilateral development partner. I am aware of the efforts of the Tanzanian government to encourage legitimate investment in Tanzania. I am extremely concerned that being bona fide investors in all respects and being the source of considerable investment in Tanzania my friends are being treated in a manner, which is clearly inconsistent with the commitments required to secure such status and which clearly, is unable to secure any effective rule of law in the country.

I have taken up the issue with my M.P

As a tourist to Tanzania the impression that I formed during my visit was that Tanzania was a lawless country where investors and their investments were far from secure. It appeared to me that the message from the government was clear in that if you break the laws of Tanzania you are welcome in the country but if you are a bona fide investor abiding by the law you are not. Surely, if the government of Tanzania wishes to secure a reformed path to development and prosperity based on honest and genuine foreign investment and tourism this is not, the message the new government of Tanzania would wish to promote.

I do not intend to visit Tanzania again. My visit was horrific and I would ask all tourists to bear in mind the overt abuses of law and human rights so easily engaged in without sanction. My visit was a horrific insight into corruption and abuse of the rule of law and an experience I do not wish to repeat. I have had enough of Africa; one visit to Tanzania was enough.

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