Judegment Day At The High Court London

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

Saturday, 23 January 2010


Investor’s folly?

Filed under: habari ndio hiyo — tarishi @ 3:11 pm

Speaking at the Tanzania Investment Centre’s tenth anniversary in Dar es Salaam on 14TH September 2007, Tanzania Investment Centre’s Executive Director, Emmanuel Ole Naiko emphasised Tanzania’s commitment to foreign investors. He stated, ‘the centre is working hard to make sure that investors come into the country and invest for the benefit of the entire Tanzanian population and that a friendly investment environment has made TIC to be one of the best centres in the world’.

Mr. Ole Naiko stated that the TIC has managed to reduce unnecessary delays for an investor to approve his/her projects in Tanzania stating that ‘currently, it takes only two weeks for the project to be approved by the centre’.

Prime Minister Edward Lowassa underscored the need for collective efforts to promote opportunities in the agricultural sector stating ‘this sector remains an important sector for the country’s socio-economic development where investment was needed as there is no way we can get out of poverty without agriculture which is the engine for Tanzania’s economic prosperity’.

The above statements are seriously undermined by the treatment of British Investor Stewart Middleton stated by Dr. Juma Ngasongwa, (Minister for Investment, Empowerment and Planning) to be a bona fide investor in Tanzania’s agricultural sector (Daily News 2nd June 2006).

Stewart Middleton purchased an assignment of the Head Lease to Silverdale and Mbono Farms, (Hai district, Kilimanjaro region) from Moshi Hotelier Benjamin Mengi in May 2004. The assignment was lawful in all respects and had the written permission of the holders of the Right of Occupancy, the Kyeri, Shari and Uswa Mamba Co-operative Societies.

It is clear law under the Land Registration Ordinance that it is the responsibility of the Commissioner of Lands (appointed by the President) to rectify the Land Register to accurately reflect land holding. Four year’s on, the Commissioner of Lands persists in refusing to register the investor’s land tenure or afford the British Government a valid reason for not doing so. The TIC, is doing nothing to assist the investor.

In April 2005, Benjamin Mengi demanded the lease back on the basis that he had not been paid in full despite, signing a receipt that he had been. Mengi brought a civil action for the eviction of the investor from the farms, which was quashed by former High Court (Lands Division) Judge Hon Kileo in March 2006.

Since refusing to hand the lease back to Mengi, Mr. Middleton and his staff have been persistently arrested and imprisoned on complaints brought by Mengi all of which have been dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions after his examination of the facts. Crops on Silverdale farm have been destroyed by Mengi’s cattle (which he refuses to remove) to the value of $30,000. The Regional Crime Officer in Moshi has stated that he is unable to arrest Mengi due to instructions from his ‘superiors’ in Dar es Salaam.

In early 2005, the TIC sent a delegation to Moshi to investigate matters and concluded that the British investor lawfully owned the Head Lease to Silverdale & Mbono Farms. However, TIC still refused to assist Mr. Middleton register his lease.

On the 7th and 8th December respectively, IPP Media’s newspapers the Guardian and Nipashe respectively, insinuated that Mr. Middleton was an unlawful investor in Tanzania and accused him of forging the lease to Silverdale & Mbono Farms. This sparked an angry response from the British government.

In a letter dated 8th December 2005 to Mr. Ole Naiko, former British High Commissioner to Tanzania His Excellency Andrew Pocock stated that he was concerned by the damaging statements made about the investor by TIC stating: -

‘ Mr Middleton did apply a while ago to be registered as an investor…..but was unable to proceed because of serious harassment by a Tanzanian businessman – Mr Benjamin Mengi – who is mentioned in the Guardian article……despite having acquired his farm in Moshi from Mr Mengi entirely legally, the latter’s activities have prevented Mr Middleton from registering his lease. Without this, he was not able to register as an investor. But a bona fide investor he is. He currently provides employment for 120 Tanzanians, and is trying to generate value-added exports for the Tanzanian economy. He is doing this in complete conformity to Tanzania’s laws, and in response to President Mkapa’s invitation to investors to come to Tanzania and generate growth, jobs, exports and skills. Moreover, he is doing this in the agriculture sector, which is, as you know, a particular priority for the Tanzanian Government’.

Instead of being helped, he has been harassed at every stage. Not only have attempts been made to seize his farm illegally, but those attempts have been assisted by the Moshi police and judiciary. Mr Middleton was falsely arrested…………details are inaccurately recorded in the 2 (IPP Media) articles – taken under armed police escort before a magistrate in Moshi, who clearly knew nothing about the case. No charge sheet was provided at his first hearing, and no comprehensible charge sheet has since been provided…the United Kingdom is both a major investor in Tanzania and its largest bilateral development partner. We are concerned to see Tanzania continue on the road to reform laid out by President Mkapa, with at its heart a diversified economy, led by the private sector. The TIC exists as part of those reforms, and to encourage that economic change. It is therefore doubly distressing to find a TIC regional office going public in such a negative way, in a case which does not reflect well on the rule of law in Moshi’.

As a bona fide investor in the agriculture sector, providing jobs and prosperity for Tanzanians, Mr. Middleton would appear to be a model investor based on Premier Lowassa and Mr Ole Naiko’s criteria. Despite this, Mr. Middleton’s crops and his commercial interests have been maliciously destroyed and he and his staff have been unjustifiably abused and ridiculed at the hands of the judiciary and police together with prominent national media outlets.

The treatment of the British investor sends worrying messages to the international community and potential investors in the country and hardly supports the claims that Tanzania is a safe and friendly country in which to invest.

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