Tarime — TARIME District authorities in Mara region have issued a 30-day ultimatum for owners of trucks abandoned in the area to show up and collect them before the government confiscates them.
The District Commissioner (DC), Mr John Henjewele, has said that the drivers of 19 trucks ran away as they were caught smuggling goods into the country. He said police in the district impounded the trucks which were found loaded with maize and various industrial goods from neighbouring Kenya. After inspection, he said one of the lorries was discovered loaded with khat popularly known as mirungi considered illegal in Tanzania. Other goods found hidden in the lorries included cartons of margarine, juice and other consumer goods.
According to the DC, the trucks were impounded between Monday (December 31, 2012 and January 3, 2013 at different locations including Nkende barrier. "Up to now 19 vehicles have been impounded and these will be thoroughly inspected," Mr Henjewele said at the end of a day long security and defence Committee meeting he chaired on Thursday until late in the evening.
Additional information gathered from various sources revealed that deliberations at the meeting included strategies to curb the escalating wave of cross-border smuggling through Sirari border post. "Most of these traders are not residents of Sirari or Tarime and they are smuggling maize to unknown destinations in total violation of custom regulations," he said.
"We have intensified patrols and inspections on these roads to address the situation," Henjewele said, adding that security has been beefed up along unauthorized route along the border. He warned that the government might go as far as confiscating vehicles abandoned by drivers along Tarime- Sirari highway if the respective owners do not turn up and settle the matter.
"All vehicles will be pulled off the road and parked at Sirari customs parking space ready for inspection. After that the owners will be contacted through available contacts and those who will fail to turn up within a period of 30 days will have their vehicles confiscated along with the goods on the trucks", DC Henjewele insisted .
Tarime authorities have warned civic leaders to refrain from what Mr Henjewele described as interference. "We condemn politicians who are interfering in the investigations and warned that anyone found doing so will face legal action on the spot," he cautioned. Tarime District Council Executive Director (DED) Mr Athuman Omar said that action will be taken against local government officials for allegedly issuing false permits to the traders indicating that they have bought the maize from Tanzanian villages located across the border between the two East African sister countries.
"Investigations have established that some local leaders like VEOs (Village Executive Officers) have been pushed by politicians to issue permits that the maize originates from villages adjacent the border something which is not true as there are no maize plantations in the vicinity. Mr Athuman Omar, Tarime DED, has been directed to take action against VEOs who issued the documents", Mr Henjewele explained.
In July last year the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives banned the importation of maize seeds and other maize related products from the neighbouring Kenya citing destructive maize fungus illness that had affected some parts of Bometi's Rift Valley. Reports stated that the crop illness affected maize farms in Karatu and Bariadi districts on the Tanzanian side.
"We are reminding good citizens including traders to cooperate and heed to the warning issued by the ministry over the maize disease", he said.