17 September 2017

Tanzania: Prof Mruma - Man On a Mission

Photo: Daily News
Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Philip Mpango, centre, gets clarification on diamonds impounded at the Julius Nyerere International Airport on August 31. Looking on are: Prof Abdulkarim Mruma, 2nd right, Tanzania Revenue Authority Commissioner General Mr Charles Kichere, partly obscured - 3rd right, Deputy Director General of the Prevention and Combatting of Corruption Bureau Brigadier General John Mbungo, 4th right, and the Director of Public Prosecutions Biswalo Mganga (immediate right to the Minister).

To win a tricky war, it is sometimes necessary for some fearless soldiers to risk their lives by penetrating enemy lines, pretending they belong to the other side in a strategy to deceive and deceit. From Greek mythology, such fighters are akin to the Trojan horse.

Prof Abdulkarim Mruma's name quickly comes to mind as one such fighter when one looks at the economic battle that the Fifth Phase Government is fighting against powerful multinationals in the mining sector.

The man has come forth as a trusted lieutenant, one willing to give it all in working with President John Magufuli, the Commander-in-chief, in Tanzania's current economic war.

A renowned geologist who has served in various mining organisations, Prof Mruma has of late been hogging the limelight after leading probe teams that defied the odds to release reports exposing the rot in the mining sector.

On September 7 this year, President Magufuli described him as a "real patriot" after receiving a report on diamonds from Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa.

Prof Mruma had been implicated in the reports for, allegedly, signing documents "without reading them" leading to huge losses to the government.

But President Magufuli, soon after receiving the reports and, in turn handed them over to the anti-corruption agency, 'exonerated' Prof Mruma. He called him a patriot who has used his talent to serve this country in the most extraordinary way.

"Prof Mruma is the one who has helped us uncover the rot in the mining sector, including in the diamonds and Tanzanite subsectors. He is our man that we sent to the sector. They thought he was one of them but he was just spying on them," Prof Magufuli noted.

Obviously, Prof Mruma was in a position to know most of the things that were taking place in the diamonds sector, for example.

In addition to serving as the chief executive officer of the Geology Society of Tanzania, Prof Mruma also taught geology at the University of Dar es Salaam for a long time and headed the Department of Geology at UDSM from 1994 to 2004.

He is currently serving as the chairman of the board of directors of the Williamson Diamonds Limited, in which ithe government has a 25 per cent stake and Petra Diamonds, 75 per cent.

He has also served in the board of directors of other locally and foreign owned mining companies, including the Tanzanian Royalty Exploration Corp., the State Mining Corp., the National Development Corp., the Douglas Lake Minerals, Inc, which later changed its name to Handeni Gold.

September 7 was not the first time for Prof Mruma to be thrown into the public limelight.

On May 24 this year, Prof Mruma handed over to President Magufuli an experts' report on the metallic mineral concentrate during a live televised event. He had been appointed by President Magufuli to head a team that probed the mineral composition of the copper/gold concentrates that were routinely exported by Acacia Mining Tanzania limited.

Prof Mruma's team found out that while only three types of minerals -- gold, copper and silver -- are declared (whose value is under-declared) the concentrates contained eight other types of minerals. The report concluded that Tanzania had been losing billions of US dollars from the under-declaration of gold, copper and silver concentrates, and from non-declaration of eight other types of minerals.

Prof Mruma's was the first of the two reports on the metallic mineral concentrates that led to the indefinite ban on the export of the concentrates and to negotiations between the government and Barrick Gold.

A real patriot

"He is a real patriot, a man of integrity who is incorruptible and always ready to serve his country," Dr Magufuli spoke of Prof Mruma on June 12 when he was receiving the second report on mineral concentrates from Prof Nehemiah Osoro.

And on August 18, President Magufuli appointed Prof Mruma chairman of the board of directors of the Tanzania International Petroleum Reserves Limited (TIPER).

On September 9, the minister for Finance and Planning, Dr Philip Mpango, led a government team from various sectors to the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) where the impounded a diamonds consignment, which was being transported by Petra Diamonds to Antwerp. The diamonds had allegedly been undervalued by Sh33 billion.

Prof Mruma, who had headed a team to re-value the diamonds was present.

Dr Mpango was also obliged to explain the key role that Prof Mruma played in helping to impound the diamonds consignment. "Indeed Prof Mruma is the kind of a patriot that this country needs. You and your team deserve a medal for what you have done for this country," Dr Mpango said emotionally.

And as he listened to further briefings on how the government was being shortchanged on its share of minerals, Dr Mpango snapped, wondering why government officials who are involved in the whole mineral export process failed to stop the cheating.

"All those government officials who have been assigned to the Williamson Diamonds Mine for all these years must be probed thoroughly," said Dr Mpango, who was vividly angry.

"We have now appointed new government representatives in the board of Williamson Diamonds and Prof Mruma is our new chairman... ," Dr Mashindano noted.

"But these ones should also be probed. If they failed to oversee our resources then they should be investigated," Dr Mpango said, without clarifying whether that would include Prof Mruma.

But he soon turned to Prof Mruma telling him: "Prof Mruma, first of all I thank President Magufuli for appointing you the new chairman of the board. But when you hold your meetings, tell your colleagues that the government needs dividends this year from the Williamson Mine."

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