29th January 2006
Mr Hassan. Gumbo. Kibelloh, The High Commissioner for Tanzania, The Tanzanian High Commission, 43 Hertford Street, London, W1Y 8DB
Dear Sir,Re: Harassment & Intimidation of Bona Fide British Investors in Tanzania
In November 2005 I went to Tanzania on holiday to visit friends Stewart Middleton and Sarah Hermitage who live in Moshi. I am aware that Tanzania is committed to the rule of law and keen to welcome investors in order to generate growth and development as well as skills, jobs, and foreign exports. However, nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced during my stay.
On the third day of my visit I was terrified by the following events. Mr Benjamin Mengi arrived at the farm gates accompanied by eight men including the Regional Crime Officer from Moshi Police. The RCO stated that his purpose was to secure Mr Mengi’s entry onto the farm stating he was the owner of it. This was despite a court order restraining Mr Mengi from entering the farm.
On being refused entry onto the farm, Mr Mengi launched into a vicious and racist attack against my friends stating that he was going to take the farm from them 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 that they would never prove any criminal charges brought against as the Police were in his hands.
Two days later whilst shopping in Moshi with Ms Hermitage, we were called by Mr Middleton and told that he and his manager Mr Able Ngoja had been arrested. I attended the District Court in Moshi with Ms Hermitage and established that the men had been arrested on the instructions of the Regional Crime Officer. 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 Magistrate’s Court where they were asked to plead to completely ‘trumped up’ charges subsequently dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Appallingly, the presiding magistrate seemed little concerned at the absence of a charge sheet. The men were not told who the complainant in the case was but I noted on the court file, that Mr Benjamin Mengi was marked as the complainant.
The following day libellous articles appeared in high profile newspapers such as the Guardian (owned by the IPP Group of Companies) stating that the men had been involved in serious offences of dishonesty including attempting to defraud a ‘famous local businessman Mr Benjamin Mengi’.
There is no evidence whatsoever that Mr Middleton or Mr Ngoja have committed any offences in Tanzania. They are not criminals. The incident was a blatant and corrupt manipulation of the Moshi police. To me, the above events were more familiar with daily life in Zimbabwe than ‘investor friendly’ Tanzania.
I would point out that the United Kingdom 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 and am extremely concerned that my friends being bona fide investors in all respects and the source of considerable investment in Tanzania are treated in a manner that demonstrates a clear and serious lack of any rule of law.
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 this is not, the message the new government of Tanzania would wish to promote.
I would be grateful for an explanation as to how the abuse of bona fide investors in Tanzania is commensurate with the investor friendly policies that the government is keen to promote given the above events must surely present serious concerns to potential investors in Tanzania together with human rights and other organisations.
I look forward to hearing from you.
The Tanzanian High Commissioner responded suggesting that the matter be reported to the police!!!!