On 25th. March, 1983, the Government launched a series of raids and arrests of people thought to be profiting from the country’s economic difficulties by hoarding scarce commodities and illegal trading. News of arrests and of goods confiscated was published in successive editions of the press. On 5th. April President Nyerere made a speech in which he explained the reasons for the operation and asked for public cooperation. He warned that the Party should not attempt to shield people involved in profiteering. Complaints about hoarding had been growing over the past three years (see Bulletin No.13 concerning the sugar shortage) and popular pressure had been mounting for some firm Government action. The action appeared to attract general public approval and on 28th. July he felt obliged to assure a meeting of Government, Party and parastatal leaders that the campaign would not be slackened.
In the early days of the campaign considerable illegal hoards were uncovered, including a large warehouse of motor spares which had been virtually unobtainable through normal channels and large quantities of basic foods such as cooking oil and salt, which had been in short supply. An immediate, though it must be said a short-lived, effect of the raids was the appearance in the shops of items such as radio batteries, which latterly had been virtually unobtainable. This must have been due to the exemplary effect of the campaign, since confiscated hoards at that stage were held under lock and key pending hearings by the Tribunal and not offloaded on the market. Some goods were found buried, or just abandoned. The President announced that people who voluntarily surrendered to the authorities goods obtained illegally would be pardoned, an indemnity that was later incorporated in the law. In response to this announcement goods worth millions of shillings were handed in.
The raids had been planned in a way which identified Government officials who had collaborated with, or connived at, illegal business operations and those subsequently dismissed from office included two Regional Commissioners (one subsequently pardoned, though not reinstated), two Regional Police Commanders, two General Managers of Regional Trading Companies, a Regional Education Officer and three Area Commissioners. At the end of April it was reported that a total of 1057 people had been detained and shs.33 million in cash had been seized. The amount of cash being held outside the banks is perhaps the best evidence of the existence of illegal dealings, but there was also pressure on legitimate businesses to hold large amounts of cash because Regional Trading Companies, Government Licensing Offices and other public bodies had been refusing to accept cheques. The President has instructed that this practice be stopped.
Nobody in Tanzania seriously expects that illegal dealings detrimental to the economy can be stopped by draconian measures alone. Such practices, which result from attempts by individuals to make up for shortages and in the crasser cases to make money out of them, can only be brought to an end when market supplies are again adequate. But Tanzania has no choice in this matter. The restoration of supplies poses formidable problems in present world conditions and is unlikely to be achieved in the near future. Meantime, the diversion of goods from the official market for purposes of private gain has detrimental effects on the economy and, what is perhaps equally important, brings Tanzania’s good name for honest dealing into disrepute. From the public’s point of view, the release on to the market of hoarded goods can bring only momentary alleviation of current shortages. But the removal of corrupt officials from government offices and trading organisations, who have used the advantages of office for personal gain, must do something to restore the reputation for probity that Tanzania once enjoyed.