Yes, Mr President: Our team fought a good fight


THERE was a time when labourers at the Williamson Diamonds Limited, at Mwadui in Shinynga Region, lived in quarters named without shame as ‘compounds’ in which a family of up to eight share a single room and common toilet and washroom with probably ten other families.

Mining interests often come into this country thinking they left their families back home to do us a favour; they will often talk about ‘job creation when they mean menial jobs; and they will talk about improving economies when they pay paltry things they call ‘royalties.”

Our negotiators at the time hardly looked beyond our borders for lessons like those of Ghana and Ashanti Gold of yore – under which the government under late Kwameh Nkrumah garnered a 40-per cent deal, plus good compensation to all those who were displaced to give room for the mining interests.

Like starry-eyes tourists shopping for souvenirs, we gave away our mineral at pittance. Now, no more, says President John Joseph Pombe Magufuli. It takes courage to say, No, and there’s no other way we could possibly define the president’s move other than that: Courage.

But then JPM’s courage goes beyond that; he thought about his poor people and their equally poor children – wallowing in poverty amidst embarrassing mineral wealth.

It’s against this backdrop that we hail the government’s recent deal with Barrick Gold Mine Corporation under which profits accrued from the mine would be shared on a 50-50 ratio, plus a 16 per cent stake in its gold held under state coffers. We wish to recognise another important dimension; and that’s the apparent ‘maturity’ of our negotiators.

In the past, we seem to have been sending people better equipped to take orders from our so-called investors rather than negotiating on behalf of the entire population of poor Tanzanians.

This time around, we were treated to negotiation between real experts from the two sides, both focused on resolving a tax dispute involving the Canadian firm’s subsidiary, Acacia Mining – which ultimately agreed to $300 (700bn/-) in a are show of good faith as the negotiations went full throttle.

According to the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Prof. Palamagamba Kabudi, these resolutions have since brought “great changes” in the way we are going to manage and supervise the country’s mineral resources.

Yes, these efforts shouldn’t be ignored … the 50-50 sharing system even rivals the historic agreement between Kwameh Nkrumah’s Ghana and Ashanti Gold Mine of yore. We owe it to our negotiators – and the government’s full backing.

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