Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

7 June 2014

Tanzania: Solve Land Disputes Now - Call

LAND disputes, especially in mining areas, can be resolved or avoided altogether through effective involvement of regional and district commissioners, as well as village and area leaders.

Speaking at a joint meeting that brought together regional commissioners (RCs), district commissioners (DCs), religious leaders, district council leaders, high ranking officials from the ministry of Energy and Minerals and other stakeholders in Dar es Salaam on Friday, the participants called for their involvement in the process leading to granting of mining licences to large-scale investors.

Chairman of the Regional Commissioners Coalition, Mr Abbas Kandoro, said consultations between the ministry of Energy and Minerals and various authorities in the field would facilitate sharing of important information between RCs, DCs and communities before arrival of the investors.

"We all appreciate the contribution being made by investors to the national economy. However, a peaceful business environment can be jointly created once regional, district and village authorities are fully involved. The aim is to attain a win-win situation and in a peaceful environment," Mr Kandoro explained at the joint meeting which focused on the prevention of mining disputes and improved revenue collection from the sector. Commenting on delayed compensation to displaced communities, Kandoro reminded the relevant authorities about the need to honour pledges, as past experience had shown that such situations escalated disagreements and sometimes led to the sabotage of an investor's project infrastructure.

"Licences for large chunks of land which remain undeveloped for many years should be revoked to pave way for serious investors. Coordination of mining activities will allow smooth utilization of resources by both small and large-scale miners. We can share very important information with regard to investment benefits," he concluded.

Bahi District Commissioner from Dodoma region, Ms Betty Mkwassa, said the need for effective and persuasive communication between top and bottom level leaders cannot be overstated.

"Some of the reported land disputes happened because investors simply descended on rural areas holding mining licences which had been authorized without consultation with district and local authorities. Villagers need to be educated on the benefits associated with a large-scale investment. A smooth communication channel must be maintained for best results," Ms Mkwassa observed.

Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Energy and Minerals, Mr Eliakim Maswi, expressed delight at the remarks by the participants, adding that cooperation at different levels of leadership would bring positive changes.

"During the financial year 2012/2013 more than 800 licences of undeveloped mining sites were revoked. The exercise is ongoing and unrelenting and many other holders of long overdue dysfunctional mining title deeds risk losing them before the end of this year," Maswi warned.

Deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals, Mr Stephen Maselle, reiterated the government's commitment to continue improving the investment climate in the mining sector presently employing more than 1.5 million people.

"Effective implementation of the 2009 Mining Policy and the Mining Act of 2010 will ensure harmonious operations among foreign investors, local communities, the ministry and other stakeholders. During the last ten years at least 3 billion US$ had been invested in the sector through direct foreign investment," Maselle explained.

The deputy minister would not play down the significant role of DCs, RCs and other stakeholders in the well-being of the mining sector, saying being the president's representatives in their respective places they could play a big role in the sector's equitable growth.

"The spirit of team work will bring benefits to the nation, the investors and small-scale miners," he said. Religious leaders called on the government to plug tax evasion loopholes and treat small-scale miners fairly.

In the First Edition (2012) of a report jointly published by the Interfaith Standing Committee on Economic Justice and the Integrity of Creation under the title, 'The One Billion Dollar Question' which drew members from the National Muslim Council of Tanzania (BAKWATA), the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) and the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), the clerics called for a review of all tax incentives with a view to raising government revenue.

"A study by the World Bank (2008) revealed that business managers in Tanzania report only 69 per cent of their sales for tax purposes... We calculate that the country is losing more than 240bn/- a year," Bishop Dr Stephen Munga said when reading the report on behalf of his colleagues.

Failure to collect tax revenue from the informal sector, which accounts for between 40 and 60 per cent of the GDP, he added, led to huge revenue losses.

"If just one-quarter of the current revenue losses from the informal sector was collected, this would bring in extra revenue totalling 600bn/- per annum," according to the report.

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