Judegment Day At The High Court London

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

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


An effective rule of law is a fundamental element of good governance. Claims to good governance status based on the existence of the rule of law are often rhetorical claims from governments propping up corrupt and abusive legal regimes. Such is the case in Tanzania where there is no effective rule of law and where the police and judicial administrations are filthy with corruption relying on bribery and extortion to supplement low incomes.

Whilst there is a growing awareness of corruption in Tanzania there are no effective mechanisms in place to address it. Corruption is a way of life, a culture, a means to an end. No matter how many anti corruption bureaus exist, it not administered objectively then sustainable political reform is by fear and favour rendered impossible.

Justice is bought and paid for in Tanzania particularly in the lower courts. Most abusive are the courts of Resident Magistrate. Here, magistrates abuse the law and supplement their salaries with frightening simplicity and impunity. Trial is always without jury and many defendants are sentenced to prison in abuse of law on charges not even contained in the penal code. Public prosecutors openly tout their services to defendants able to afford a ‘not guilty’ judgement on the day of trial and the penal code is mostly ignored and seldom understood. Resident magistrates sit on civil cases as well as criminal cases with an equal degree of corruption. Due process is continuously blocked by the refusal of corrupt court administrators to accept documents for filing and daily claims of ‘the court file is lost’ remains an effective way of keeping an innocent defendant in prison without hope of release. State Attorneys assume their corrupt roles when powerful local interests need to be promoted through the criminal courts.

In a survey commissioned by the Kenyan Division of Transparency International (July 2009) the Tanzanian police were ranked the second most corrupt institution in East Africa with a 62.2% bribery rate and the Tanzanian Judiciary achieving a 61.5 % bribery rating. Law does not combat the root causes of corruption but it can, if administered objectively, form an effective deterrent. Until it does, the unheard are denied voices, the poor are further impoverished, the innocent denied justice and sustainable development rendered impossible. The police, particularly in the lower ranks know or care nothing of the penal code or the required procedures for arrest. Human rights are brutally denied on a daily basis resulting in people in prison for years for crimes they did not commit or know nothing about. The scope within the administrations of justice for the operation of simplistic but effective corruption resulting in the deprivation of human rights and freedoms is truly terrifying.

What is clear is, that the rhetoric coming out of Tanzania vis-à-vis good governance does not sit comfortably with the reality and any genuine commitment to substantive political reform is for the foreseeable future undermined by the absence of an objective rule of law.


Joe said...

There's so much that I could say on this topic. Often outsiders who point at corruption in Tanzania are told 'everywhere is corrupt, including the UK' and 'you don't understand'.

Well, having worked in Tanzania for many years I think I understand very well what is going on. The difference between Tanzania and the UK, in terms of corruption, is that Tanzania is systemically corrupt. Every aspect of public life - and every level of government - is corrupt. Virtually every financial transaction that takes place involves money being drained away from the economy. The BAE Systems radar deal was small fry in the scheme of things - look at what happens to duties on fuel and gold if you want to see the big numbers.

Tanzanians laugh at our expenses scandal in the UK and say 'they are just the same', but we really aren't. The whole of the UK rightly got very worked up by MPs claiming what a system they set up allowed them to claim and making profit on homes which had been partially paid for by taxpayers. Many of those involved have been barred from standing for parliament again. Tanzanian MPs must think this is hilarious - they are pretty much all involved in stealing very large amounts of cash from their people.

Unfortunately there's virtually no chance of ending aid to Tanzania even though many Africans argue that aid is making things worse rather than better. Briefly, the main reasons for this are that:

i. gesture politics: even if politicians admit privately that aid is like pouring petrol on a fire, they think that the public think that giving money to what they would assume are 'starving Africans' has to be a good thing.
ii. The committments made by the G8 leaders at the 31st G8 summit at Gleneagles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/31st_G8_summit I blame the god-awful Bono for Bush, Brown and Blair's brainless attitude to aid.
ii. it's not in the interests of the officials involved to cut back on aid. They live very comfortable lives in Tanzania receiving very high allowances. It's in their direct interests to maintain to their political masters that aid is working.

This really is a major factor in the ongoing scandal, in my view. I've seen junior DFID officals in Africa living in huge houses in wealthy area looked after by servants and drivers. Very different from the suburban semi-detached houses they'd otherwise be living in in the UK. (These are, of course, rented out: some officials are making a fortune in buy-to-let on top of their salaries and allowances).
iii. Tanzanian officials have become master spin doctors. They know what the donors what to hear and ensure that they hear it.

It's a desperate situation. As Tanzanians themselves say, Tanzania is not a poor country. The looting of aid from donors is only a small part of the overall picture of corruption. Vastly more can be earned by backhanders from mining and logging companies - paid to ensure that duties aren't levied and that health and safety regulations are ignored.

And that's before we even think about what the even-more-corrupt Chinese are getting up to in Tanzania and most other African countries.

All the while a tiny elite grow obscenely rich and the British public remain blissfully unaware and unconcerned about the situation.

But the real tragedy is the millions upon millions of Tanzanians condemned to grinding poverty by the actions of their cruel, greedy and smug masters. It is, literally, a crying shame.

ragamuffin said...

Joe, I think think your last paragraph is what is important here. The tradgedy of this case and corruption generally is the fact that millions remain in pverty and it is so unnecessary. One hundred and fifty people were emplyed on this farm. They all lost their jobs and their hope for the future. Even more of a tradgedy s, those who have abused the law in this case are responsibel for all this and have the support of their government and look who is involved! Certainly some kind of creature of the sea.

Please get in touch. Your anominity will be respected.