16 May 2017

Tanzania: Two Tanzanian Judges Resign Under Unclear Circumstances

Two Tanzanian High Court judges, who have been under public scrutiny concerning high-profile cases they were linked to, have resigned.

Judge Aloysius Mujulizi and Lady Justice Upendo Msuya quit on Monday. Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner Said Meck Sadiki also resigned.

President John Magufuli accepted their resignation, according to a statement from State House released on Tuesday.

Justice Mujulizi was in 2015 accused of receiving Tsh40 million (about $18,000) from James Rugemalira, then owner of VIP Engineering, in unclear circumstances.

VIP had sold its 30 per cent stake in independent power producer IPTL (Independent Power Tanzania Limited) -which was engaged in a legal battle with the state electricity supplier Tanesco - and is reported to have been paid money withdrawn from an escrow account. The account was held jointly by IPTL and Tanesco.

It is alleged that Justice Mujulizi and another, judge Eudes Ruhangisa, were paid from the Tegeta Escrow account, sparking a public outcry in what became a major corruption scandal involving many government officials.

Then president Jakaya Kikwete declined to form a tribunal to investigate the judges even after Parliament passed a resolution for him to do so. President Kikwete said the chief justice would handle the matter.

Bail hearing

In 2011, Judge Msuya granted bail to two Pakistanis accused of trafficking 180 kilogrammes of heroin worth $2.7 million, a ruling that turned out to be controversial.

The two -Abdul Ghan Peer Bux and Shahbaz Malik- jumped bail and fled the country. The incident sparked debate as to provisions of the law. It was argued that the judge had erred in her ruling but the matter was not disputed in court. According to Tanzania's anti-drug trafficking law, bail is forbidden for suspects detained with narcotics exceeding Tsh10 million (about $4,500) in value.

A member of the National Taskforce Against Drug Trafficking, Rogers Siyanga, told MPs at a seminar in 2011 that Justice Msuya's ruling was a setback to the fight against the illegal trade.

Mr Siyanga was in February this year appointed the Commissioner for Drug Control and Enforcement Authority, by President Magufuli. After his appointment, Mr Siyanga said he would be review all drug-related cases in order to ascertain whether there were judges or magistrates who may have been biased or influenced in their rulings.

Mr Sadiki was the regional commissioner for Dar es Salaam before being transferred to Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania. Paul Makonda, who took over from him last year, has been conducting a relentless campaign against drug trafficking in Tanzania's commercial capital which is backed by the president.

By the time of going to press, it was still unclear what the three officials gave as their reasons for resigning.

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