THE PRESIDENT’S PRESS CONFERENCE

As indicated on page 11, President Nyerere gave a press conference to the Tanzanian newspapers and Radio Tanzania in the Diamond Jubilee Hall, Dar es Salaam, on 28th. July, 1983, before an assembly of leaders. The proceedings were relayed over the Kiswahili service of Radio Tanzania. The following summary is based on a monitoring record of the broadcast.

Although this event appears to have been an innovation, it has been the President’s practice in recent years to visit the University of Dar es Salaam and to reply to questions put to him by the students. But these were essentially private occasions. On this occasion, the questions put to him by representatives of the media were based on letters that they had been receiving and therefore reflected the misgivings and uncertainties of the literate and largely urban minority; the views and feelings of the rural majority were inevitably largely unrepresented and are very much more difficult to ascertain.

The questions were put by the Daily News, Radio Tanzania, SHIHATA (the Tanzanian News Agency), Uhuru and Mzalendo. The large majority of questions were concerned with the working of the law against economic sabotage (see Bulletin No.17, pp.14, 15), at that time only a few weeks old. The action had started on 24th. March and the first legislation was signed by the President on 4th. May. The misgivings expressed were that the most powerful economic saboteurs were escaping the penalties of the Act, or were not being caught, and that the Government’s commitment was declining. Questions were asked about the basis on which clemency was granted, or suspects released by the special tribunal, and about the separate committees which, it was alleged, were dealing with the cases of Party and Government leaders and the heads of parastatals. On the other hand, one questioner asked whether there was a danger of hard work and its rewards being misconstrued as economic sabotage and whether it was right to hold suspects in detention awaiting an appearance before the tribunal after the expiry of the 60 days prescribed by law.

Questions were also raised about the alleged ownership of certain trading corporations by Government and Party leaders, the factors hindering the reopening of the border with Kenya (it has since been reopened), the danger that the removal to their homes of unemployed persons under the Human Resources Deployment Act, 1983, might lead to an increase of tribalism, the proliferation of special committees in Government and Party, the failure of enquiries into the expenditure of Government and public corporations to report within the allotted time of nine months and the apparent re-employment in top jobs of Government leaders who had been retired or dismissed after making gross mistakes.

Many of these questions remained unanswered in the President’s replies. He began by referring to two matters brought to his attention by Uhuru. First, if Lonrho had indeed been guilty of collaboration with South Africa and if its operations in Tanzania had been harmful to trade, why had it been decided to compensate Lonrho for the confiscated assets of this company and even to consider allowing it to resume operations? Secondly, why following the earlier opposition of the Government to the demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for currency devaluation has the currency nevertheless been devalued? The transcript is incomplete and contains no indication of the President’s views on the first of these questions, but on the matter of devaluation he seems to have suggested that the change in policy had come about because of a new understanding of ‘how things work’. The H1F had recommended an increase in exports and a reduction of imports and this was being done. As regards devaluation, the Government’s objection was not against devaluation per se, whether to 15, 20, or 30 shillings per dollar, but against the manner and timing of the devaluation proposed. The IMF sought immediate devaluation from shs.12 to shs.30 per dollar. The Government were not objecting to the devaluation itself, but to the speed of implementation as requested by the IMF. There was a speed of devaluation that would cause very great problems.

Turning to the questions on economic sabotage, the President first addressed himself to the charge of a loss of momentum. This charge he rebutted and said that it had never been promised that there would be no releases. Some people had been wrongly arrested and it was right that they should be released. He hoped that they would forgive. He was unable to give numbers, but said that when people were released the fact was given publicity in the papers and on the radio. Many people had been released on bail pending a hearing of their cases, but all had been taken back into custody by the police, or on presidential orders. There were, however, others against whom the charges had been withdrawn.

People arrested under the special legislation fell into four groups. First, there were those against whom the police held sufficient evidence to bring them to trial. Secondly, there were those who had committed crimes that were then found to lie outside the scope of the new law. They would be brought before the ordinary courts. Thirdly, there were those against whom the evidence was not very good, but whose known character and records showed them to be ‘big economic saboteurs’. If on the day of the clampdown no evidence could be found, they would have been released by the tribunal. In such cases of known saboteurs the police would ask the President to detain them- presumably under the presidential powers in the Preventive Detention Act. The fourth group consisted of party workers, members of the public service and the staff of parastatals, where the evidence was not weighty enough to secure a conviction before a tribunal. In such cases, their names were referred back for consideration under the disciplinary provisions of their employment.

The President said that all those against whom the evidence was clear would go before a tribunal, be they Party leader, Government leader, or ordinary businessman. But in the case of leaders, whether or not the evidence was sufficient for charges before a tribunal, they would also be considered by the disciplinary organs of Party or Government.

366 people had been arrested and released because there was no evidence to justify keeping them in custody. He himself had released two people, one of them being Edward Barongo, the former Regional Commissioner of Kilimanjaro Region.

On 22nd. August, it was announced that Barongo had been rearrested after the discovery of a large amount of money and goods imported from abroad at his house in Bukoba. Other sums of money were discovered at his house in Moshi. The President explained that his previous decision to release Barongo had been based on the minor character of his infringements known at that time. He had not then been aware of the major new evidence against Barongo.

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