When Britain’s Development Secretary Clare Short arrived in Tanzania on 3rd July to face President Mkapa on the controversial purchase by Tanzania of an expensive air traffic control system, the man on the street in Dar es Salaam was expecting fireworks in view of the strongly opposed positions the two had taken on the issue. A few days before her arrival people were reporting that they had seen heavy lorries carrying the equipment to a newly created site at an army barracks. Ms Short had fiercely opposed the deal because of its high cost and had suspended British aid to put pressure on the country to change its decision (see TA No. 72). CUF opposition leader Ibrahim Lipumba had called for publication of a report that had been commissioned by the World Bank which was said to be highly critical of the purchase. He was quoted in Mtanzania as saying that while Shs 36 billion had been spent on the radar, in the last budget only Shs 24 billion had been allocated for rural roads, Shs 31 billion for water and Shs 10 billion for medicine. He said that while attempts were being made by donors to write off debts, the country was now entering into this additional “odious debt”.
Mwananchi reported on 17th July that a CCM MP, speaking in a debate on foreign donors had referred to Clare Short as “that troublesome British lady”. Speaker of the House Pius Msekwa asked the MP to withdraw his remarks and to call the Secretary of State by her proper title. The MP complied.
However, two days after Ms Short’s arrival, the Daily News, under the heading “Short: Radar Row Over”, reported that Ms Short had stated that the row was over and had announced a new six-year aid package to Tanzania in which the UK would provide the country with at least £45 million in budget support. She was quoted as saying “It’s true that we held back £10 million in order that we could get to the point that we are at now -not to punish Tanzania by taking away money but because of a contract that could have been done better … but you can’t undo it”. She added that lessons should be learnt from the experience. However, she said, despite the new agreement, she still believed that the radar was a “waste of money”. Finance Minister Basil Mramba and Minister for Communications and Transport Professor Mark Mwandosya were said to have been all smiles at the end of Ms Short’s visit. “The meeting was highly successful” they said.