Following the issue of the report of a Presidential Committee into the Sugar Industry, with particular reference to the issue of licenses to import sugar, Minister of Industry and Commerce Iddi Simba resigned on November 5. However, because of the crucial role he had played in a July meeting in Zanzibar of trade ministers from the least developed countries (LDC’s) prior to negotiations for a new round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks at Doha in Qatar in mid­November, Mkapa asked him to stay on until November 16 to lead the Tanzanian delegation. Tanzania opposed the new round because it claimed that developing countries could not yet face open competition and the subsidies some western nations gave to their own industries. Simba said that he had had to resign to ‘demonstrate his political maturity’ and to save the government from being defeated by a vote of no confidence in Parliament. The enquiry had followed a motion tabled by Kwela MP Chrisant Mzindakaya in the National Assembly attacking Simba for ‘indiscriminately’ issuing sugar import licences’. Mzindakaya was the MP who in 1996 had raised another alleged scandal which saw the resignation of the then Finance Minister Prof. Simon Mbilinyi. The Commission recommended repeal of Government Notice Number 301 of 2000 which had given the Minister for Industry and Commerce wide powers to register any person to import sugar. Simba stepped down a day before Parliament began a debate on the issue of sugar import licenses. He was reported to have authorised 44 companies, instead of only 10 gazetted last August to import sugar. The enquiry concluded that the import licenses were issued in an environment surrounded with circumstantial evidence of graft.

On November 23 President Mkapa surprised many when he appointed former Minister of Natural Resources, Tourism and the Environment Dr Juma Ngasongwa to replace Simba in this key cabinet post. Ngasongwas had himself resigned in December 1966 after he had been mentioned in Judge Joseph Warioba’s Corruption Commission which had probed a scandal involving the allocation of hunting blocks. Ngasongwa was subsequently reprieved.

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