Archive for Issue 49

TA Issue 49

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FIRM NO TO GOVERNMENT FOR TANGANYIKA
BY-ELECTION RESULT ANNULLED
TANZANIA’S NEW CITY
BALANCING THE BOOKS
HOME SWEET HOME
PUBLIC ENTERPRISE REFORM
TELEVISION TURMOIL

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FIRM "NO" TO GOVERNMENT FOR TANGANYIKA

1.3 million members of Tanzania’s ruling CCM party, in a consultation process or ‘internal referendum’, have reacted overwhelmingly against a previously strongly supported Parliamentary motion that a separate government should be set up for Tanganyika. 61% voted for continuation of the present two-government structure i.e. the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Government of Zanzibar; 29% for the establishment of one single government for Zanzibar and the mainland; and, only 8% for the creation of a third government for the mainland.

This decision becomes CCM party policy for forthcoming elections. It is not clear what happened next in Parliament but, according to a heading in the Swahili newspaper ‘Majira’ (August 9), the Group of 55 M.P’s who had been campaigning for a Tanganyika Government were being ‘condemned for being swallowed by the CCM party’. It is believed that there was strong support in parliament for a single government, although this would not be acceptable to Zanzibar. The CCM party did make it clear however that the ultimate aim should be a single government for the country.

TRIUMPH FOR NYERERE
These developments represent a triumph for former President Julius Nyerere who has been waging a crusade to preserve the Union in its present form. He felt that setting up a third government would mean the end of the Union.

Invited to speak at the crucial National Executive Committee meeting of the party during the weekend starting July 30th Mwalimu Nyerere delivered a passionate speech in defence of the constitutional status quo.

Because of the, for him, favourable result of the consultation process, he said that he would not now need to leave the CCM Party, something which he had been contemplating.

ZANZIBAR TO BLAME
At a subsequent press conference he put the blame for what had happened on the Zanzibar government for having ‘taken a series of actions aimed at maximising the Isles’ autonomy in flagrant breach of the constitution’. The main action had been two years earlier when Zanzibar had joined the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) without reference to the Union government (it later withdrew under pressure from Dar es Salaam). This action, Nyerere said, had been the cause of a retaliatory demand for the setting up of a separate Tanganyika (mainland) government, which had attracted the support of many CCM MP’s and senior government personalities. He was very critical of the present (Union) government for ‘first trying to cover up the matter and then taking a year to study an otherwise straightforward case of breach of the constitution’.

Mwalimu Nyerere was also reported to have said that there were some 27 problematic issues concerning the Union which should be dealt with. But CCM party and government leaders could not solve these problems because they were afraid to confront Zanzibar President Dr. Salmin Amour he said.

Some of the ‘Group of 55’ MP’s who had been leading the campaign for a Tanganyika government accused their own CCM party of rigging the results of the consultation. Nyerere hinted that if they were unhappy with the decision they should leave the party. He seemed to almost welcome such an outcome because, only in that way, he said, would Tanzania acquire an effective opposition watchdog in parliament.

FOURTEEN AREAS OF CONFLICT
Minister of Constitutional Affairs Samuel Sitta has admitted that there are fourteen areas in which the 1977 Union Constitution and the 1984 Zanzibar Constitution are in conflict.

On August 10 one of the factors which had aroused the wrath of many Tanzanians – the need for Tanzanian mainlanders to carry passports when visiting Zanzibar – was corrected. In future mainlanders would need only an identity card or letter from an administrative location.

Other administrative problems facing the Union would be the subject of a report to be presented to parliament in the very near future. There had been seven consultative meetings between the two governments recently on Union problems.

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LATEST BY-ELECTION RESULT

The results of the latest parliamentary by-election at Igunga surprised many observers who expected veteran opposition leader Joseph Kasella-Bantu (the former MP for the constituency) to gain a respectable second place after the candidate of the ruling CCM party. The results were as follows :

Rostam Aziz (CCM) 28,502
Henry Mapalala, Civic United Front (CUF) 15,816
Joseph Kasella-Bantu, United Democratic Party 3,375
Kirito Shija (TLP) 691
Ahmed Mahboob (UPDP) 665
Hashim Ndambile (NCCR-Mageuzi) 549
Juma Mabondo (NLD) 486
Alphonce Kiyabo (WNA) 426

The success of CUF in winning 31.3% of the vote came as a surprise. Although the party is strong in Zanzibar – ‘Africa Analysis’ describes it as the ‘only authoritative and credible movement there’ – it was not considered strong on the mainland where CHADEMA, which did not contest the by-election, had been considered the most significant party.

Many opposition leaders have been criticising the present electoral law and the failure of the government to amend a number of other laws to ensure fairness in multi-party elections. CUF leader James Mapalala has decided not to apply for any further election subsidy and to boycott all forthcoming elections until his demand for a constitutional conference to amend certain existing laws is agreed.

On July 28th the Express reported that CUF Vice-Chairman Seif Sharrif Hamad had made a courtesy call on Mwalimu Nyerere. ‘The talks did not last more than an hour and the press were only allowed to take pictures before the start of the meeting’.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Samuel Sitta insisted however, that the government would not agree to a constitutional conference; the country’s constitution fully respected human rights he said. He went on to say that the government had scrutinised the 40 laws listed as inhuman by the Nyalali Commission (which prepared the way last year for the multi-party system) and it was likely that some would be reviewed.

Once again, as at the previous Kigoma by-election, the CCM party had pulled out all the stops to ensure that it would win the Igunga by-election decisively. CCM Secretary-General Horace Kolimba assured villagers that an initial TShs 900,000 would be provided before the by-election date to pay cotton growers for their crops sold in 1992/93. The government had previously provided TShs 770,000 to cooperative societies but TShs 3.2 million had been ‘squandered’ by society officials according to the Daily News.

OPPOSITION PROPORTION OF THE VOTE GOES UP

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Yet, in spite of this intensive campaigning at Igunga the total opposition vote (for all parties) at the by-election reached 43.5% of those voting – a much higher figure than in previous by-elections. In Kwahani, Zanzibar it had been only 11% (most parties boycotted the by-election), at Ileje it had been 21.5% and at Kigoma it had reached 27.3% (see graph). The opposition remains divided however and steps taken by four parties to unite (Bulletin No 48) have made little further progress. A factor which probably influences some party leaders is that all registered parties, however limited then support, can receive government subsidies to cover some of their costs in by-elections.

EARLIER BY-ELECTION RESULT ANNULLED

CCM received very bad news when, in mid-August the High Court ruled that the Kigoma by-election result was nu1 and void. The CCM party had made very considerable efforts to win this by-election and the happy result had been the cause of much celebration in the party around the country.

However, as explained in Bulletin No 48, there had been many irregularities in the CCM campaign. The court accepted four of the fourteen grounds of complaint submitted by the CHADEMA candidate in the by-election, Dr. Aman Kabourou, who had come second, and required the CCM candidate, Mr Azim Premji, to pay Dr. Kabourou’s costs. Respondents in the petition, the Attorney General and Mr Premji, were given 14 days to appeal. The main complaints had centred on participation in the campaign by President Mwinyi using government transport and the CCM bias of Radio Tanzania.

Full reactions to the news about the Kigoma result were not available as we went to press but one citizen in Dar es Salaam was quoted as saying that the court’s verdict had tarnished the image of President Mwinyi because he had taken such an active role in the by-election. The CCM MP for Karatu was quoted as saying that the monopoly of Radio Tanzania by the ruling party was unfair and that there should be a reasonable allocation of radio time for other parties. The MP for Mufindi said that the CCM had panicked. There had been no reason for the senior leadership of the country to campaign for Azim Premji.

The next by-election will be in Tabora North. Although six parties originally named their candidates for the contest there is some uncertainty as to whether most of the opposition parties will take part as they doubt whether it will be free and fair.

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BENACO – TANZANIA’S SECOND CITY?

The news from the Rwanda-Zaire border which has horrified the world during recent days has taken the spotlight away from the Rwanda-Tanzania border where, according to the media, a new city has been created – Benaco – the second largest in Tanzania – a vast encampment of 350,000 Rwanda refugees in Ngara District, Kagera Region. The new arrivals exceed the existing population (170,000) of Ngara District. This is how the media have been describing the situation as it developed:

Mangengesa Mdimi in the Dar es Salaam Daily News (June 3): If a blind and deaf person were to be driven along the road from Rusumo Bridge, on the Rwanda Tanzanian border, and asked to identify the refugee camp, he or she would have little difficulty. The revolting smell of human waste welcomes all visitors to the camp.. . .But the Tanzanian Red Cross and others have started organising the construction of latrines. There were two problems – lack of enough timber and lack of cooperation from the refugees themselves who demanded payment for digging their own latrines.-….at peak hours the main street becomes so congested that it is almost impossible to move….Minister of Home Affairs Augustine Mrema, visiting Ngara expressed his concern about the environmental damage caused by the refugee influx. “Very soon Kagera and Kigoma regions risk becoming deserts” he said. The refugees need poles to build their huts and fuel to cook and trees are being chopped down indiscriminately – the rate of tree cutting grows faster than a bush fire …..

The Economist (July 2): The (former) Ngara District Commissioner (a new DC, Brigadier Selvester Hemed, has since been appointed), whose fading Christmas decorations still hang on the walls of his home, could hardly believe his eyes. On his doorstep, in this sleepy corner of Tanzania, has sprung up one of the world’s biggest refugee camps …… Amid the chaos the place is thriving. Little shops have materialised along the roads that run through the camp. There are several big markets where refugees sell part of their aid rations to buy fresh vegetables. Tanzanian shillings, Rwandan francs, American dollars are all accepted. Beneath the blue and white makeshift awnings are bars, butchers, bicycle shops, hairdressers, electrical stores, tailors and even watch menders. A ‘nightclub’ is now open for business all day; it costs 200 shillings (38 American cents) for men and 100 for women. Zairean beer flows freely …. the new city has meant new business for Tanzanians who Sell cigarettes and cloth or hire out vehicles to journalists at $200 a day. Roads have been named after well-liked aid workers and one is named ‘Julius Nyerere’.

The reason Benaco could be set up so fast is that Cogefar, an Italian contracting firm was already in the area building roads. The government and the UN hastily altered the contract and the machinery was transferred to improving an impassable road to the local airstrip, preparing food storage sites, filling termite holes on the strip, and providing water tankers. The UN High Commission for Refugees said it was the best cooperative effort it had ever seen – 200 foreign aid officials, 300 Rwandan staff and many Tanzanians all working together.

W F Deedes in the Daily Telegraph (July 18) under the heading ‘Truly, this was hell on earth’: This is no ordinary city. Some 6,000 of the citizens are children who are totally alone. In one community of 2,000 more than a quarter are orphans. I have seen refugees in many places but nothing comparable to this … a new dimension of the human experience …. Due to tireless professional work by people like the Red Cross, Medecins sans Frontieres, CARE, Concern, Oxfam working round the clock this human swarm is ‘orderly, fed, watered and clear of epidemics’. This latter due partly to the 2,670 latrines laid out in 267 blocks of ten.

Rations are centrally distributed. Cooking is individual all of it over open wood fires. At the evening meal the district for miles around is under a gigantic smog. Along every road approaching the camp is an unending stream of people carrying bundles of wood from the surrounding countryside. What will Ngara be like in a few months time? Someone has said that it is as if a plague of locusts had crossed the land. This new city might soon strain even Tanzania’s tolerance….As one observer put it ‘To visit a land where a massive genocide has been perpetuated or condoned by a population which expresses no obvious guilt or remorse, is as close to experiencing hell on earth as I can imagine possible’.

Anthony Ngaiza writing in the Dar es Salaam Family Mirror (August): Frustrated, angry and confused Henry Mabula sits on his bench at Pasiansi Market near Mwanza gazing at a pile of fish he caught in Lake Victoria this morning. It is 6 pm and only two out of his morning’s catch of 207 fish have been sold. “For four months now we have not been able to sell fish” he said. “People believe that all the fish are polluted since they heard about the 40,000 bodies of Rwandans washed into the Lake via the Kagera River”. Fish prices have dropped by 50%. FAO and WHO experts have indicated that there is no danger – Tilapia are basically grazers; Nile Perch eat only live fish. Water quality has been tested and is unchanged. The governments of Tanzania and Uganda have made great efforts to remove all the bodies but people fear that some bodies have been trapped in the water hyacinths which are prevalent on the lake.

Tom Walker writing in the Wall Street Journal (July 18): Benaco is a microcosm of almost every evil that afflicts Africa. The aid agencies, caught up in dealing with possibly the greatest single tide of humanity this century, have unwittingly allowed social structures traditional in Rwanda to be recreated in Benaco. Some 95% of the camp is populated by Hutus who have been responsible for most of the killings in Rwanda….Hutu killers have re-established their personal fiefdoms. Tutsis and moderate Hutus who had the misfortune to end up in the camp are murdered at the rate of about five a day…. In the warming sun that followed the rainy season the atmosphere was compared to Woodstock. The comparison looks hopelessly naive now as Benaco is a dark, medieval bedlam where many aid workers now fear to tread…..after a recent riot the Tanzanian authorities promised to remove the ringleaders but when they tried there was an uprising of 5,000 refugees that led relief workers to leave the camp for a week.. Tanzania is having to strengthen its police force in the camp…..Up to one third of the food that arrives in the camp is immediately sold by refugees, trucked back from the camp and resold on Tanzanian markets…the price of maize in towns along the aid corridor has dropped dramatically. “We Tanzanians are wondering what we are getting out of all this (trouble)” said the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs sadly surveying a letter of complaint from a Dar es Salaam blanket company that had not sold a single blanket to the international aid effort. Tanzanian manufacturers are by-passed and even soap and bottled water have been brought in from Nairobi.

The 60 supporters of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) – the new RPF government has now been recognised by Tanzania – who, as indicated in the last Bulletin, had been arrested in Mwanza on the orders of Prime Minister Malecela for celebrating the death of the late President Habyarimana in April have been released. According to the Family Mirror this was done on the orders of the former Ngara District Commissioner.


‘PAX TANZANIANA’

Meanwhile, Mukete MP Tuntemeke Sanga has suggested that the volatile states of Rwanda and Burundi should be rejoined with Tanzania under a ‘Pax Tanzaniana’. He recalled that these small states had been removed from the larger German East Africa after the first World War and that ‘that had been the source of all their problems’. Within Tanzania they would not have been able to obtain arms to massacre each other. Mwalimu Nyerere, in a press conference in New York explained that the region affected – Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania – had inherited, due to colonialism, artificial barriers; they had divided people who were ethnically the same. Previously, when Rwandese or Burundi refugees had crossed into Tanzania they had been absorbed but this influx was of too great a magnitude.

As we go to press there are reports of a new influx of 2,000 more refugees a day into hard pressed Tanzania.

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NATURAL GAS GO AHEAD

Tanzania’s long-awaited ambitious plan to harness its natural gas and reduce its dependence on expensive imported fuel (which takes 60% of the foreign currency earnings each year) and hydropower (which provides 70% of the electricity) has received the go-ahead. The World Bank is providing a US$ 200 million loan for the project which will be undertaken jointly by the government and two Canadian firms in a new firm called Songas. The project will exploit an estimated 32,77 billion cubic metres of natural gas on the island of Songosongo, near Kilwa. The gas will be ferried to the mainland through a pipeline and a 100-megawatt electric power station will be built. It is hoped that some of the gas can be exported to Kenya.

Songosongo’s gas deposit was discovered 20 years ago but has remained unexploited because of lack of funds, In the last six years Tanzania’s electricity demand has been growing at 12% a year and is now estimated to amount to 800 megawatts, Between 1992 and 1993 there were serious power shortages because the prolonged drought had reduced water levels at the big Mtera Dam 400 kilometres southwest of Dar es Salaam. (An item on Tanzania’s progress in harnessing hydropower is to be found in the ‘Reviews’ section in this issue – Ed)

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BALANCING THE BOOKS

Just after they had been celebrating the 1994 New Year – on January 2nd – Tanzanians woke up to a shock. Finance Minister Prof. Kighoma Malima suddenly announced a new budget – it became known as the ‘mini-budget’ – to deal with a financial crisis. There had been a severe shortfall in revenue collection and expenditure was surging ahead. Details were given in Bulletin No 48.

As Roger Carter explained in the last Bulletin, when a government cannot balance its books there are all kinds of unhappy consequences. The government must borrow more – public debt in Tanzania increased by 20.3% in 1994/95 compared with the previous year; the government owned National Bank of Commerce, which is the banker for numerous loss-making parastatals, has just had to raise its interest rates from 30% to a prohibitive 39%; the value of the currency will fall – in Tanzania it has fallen from TShs 475 to the dollar in December 1993 to TShs 520 to the dollar today; inflation will increase – it has increased from 19% in 1990 to 23.5% at the end of last year.

CLOSING THE GAP BETWEEN REVENUE AND EXPENDITURE

So, when Finance Minister Malima examined the books before planning his main budget statement in June he again had to deal with the large gap between revenue and expenditure. His budget for 1994/95 envisages the following:

Revenue 292,310 mill TShs
Expenditure 514,284 mill TShs – 20% more than last year
Gap 221,974 mill TShs

The main cause of the proposed increase in expenditure has been internal and external debt servicing and the cost of the restructuring of the financial and parastatal sectors.
The minister announced that he was determined to reduce dependency on foreign donors for recurrent expenditure but he anticipated TShs 168.846 billion still coming from donors in 1994/95 leaving a gap of TShs 53.128 billion. Sweden has indicated that it will contribute TShs 16 billion.

To avoid an increase in inflation the minister stated that he would not borrow any more from the banking system and, in fact, to indicate his determination to deal with the bulging public debt, he intended to reduce his accumulated bank borrowing by shillings 20.16 billion in 1994/95. This, of course, would increase the gap again to TShs 73.288 billion. To reduce it, the minister would raise TShs 36.319 billion by continuing to auction Treasury Bills (a procedure first adopted last year) and thus reduce liquidity and hopefully, inflation; his ambition to bring inflation down from 23% to 10% in one year seems unlikely to be achieved.

The budget gap was now down to TShs 36.978 billion and this last part would have to be raised by painful measures to increase revenue and reduce expenditure.

A whole range of such measures were announced. These included broadening the sales tax base so that contractors, accountants, consultants, tour operators and many others would now pay this tax; an increase in customs tariff from 40% to 50% and reduction in import duty on industrial imports from 10% to 5% to help local manufacturers; a 5% levy on petroleum products to stop smuggling to neighbouring countries; an increase in road toll from TShs 30 per litre to TShs 40 to help cover road maintenance costs; strengthening supervision of collection of revenue, although this is not going to prove easy given the extent of the temptation to corruption it offers; reducing the number of government ministries; strengthening the unpopular ‘cost sharing’ policy (payments made for some previously free education and medical services); and a substantial reduction in the number of government operated vehicles (a particularly heavy drain on the exchequer).

To tighten up revenue collection, regulations governing the use of custom bonded warehouses would be amended; a Revenue Board to scrutinise all tax exemptions would be set up; every taxpayer would be given an identification number; fines for offenders would be increased;


CONFUSION ON INVESTMENT INCENTIVES AND TAX EXEMPTION

The minister was less sure footed in his budget speech when he came to dealing with tax exemptions allowed under incentive schemes to attract foreign investment. These were being misused and abused he said. The minister first said that he was going to abolish all tax exemptions except for a short list including diplomatic establishments, recognised foreign NGO1s, religious institutions and very large new investments (US% 10 million or more). Responsibility for exemptions was being moved from the Investment Promotion Centre to the Minister of Finance who would have sole authority.

BACKTRACKING

Later however, it had to be admitted that where there had been unpalatable tax exemptions these had been authorised by the Ministry of Finance and not by the Investment Centre. Under heavy attack from investors and the press the ministry back tracked on July 14th. All investors whose projects had been approved and been issued with tax exemption certificates before the budget were to be tax exempt. But, future tax exemptions would be ‘expost facto’ i.e. exemption would be granted only after completion of the project and the beginning of production or of delivery of the service. Raw materials, consumer items including spare parts, projects related to transportation of transit cargo, banking, radio, television, restaurants, casinos and tour operators would not qualify for tax exemption. Exemptions would be given for new projects worth more than US$ 5 million or, in the case of projects involving rehabilitation/expansion where they were worth US$ 2.0 million or more.

These instructions disturbed an already not very favourable environment for attracting investment so on August 10th there was further backtracking. ‘Business Times’ reported that President Mwinyi had ordered a revision of the Finance Bill to restore the tax exemption authority to the Investment Promotion Centre. To add to the confusion it was announced that a number of other changes would be made in the budget including the $10 million and $5 million minimum tax exemption qualifications.

It was also decided to amend or repeal the Exchequer and Audit Ordinance so that the Minister of Finance would remain one amongst other institutions and not first among unequals in tax administration. Incentives would also be restored for imports of spare parts and raw materials.

News that an electricity rationing scheme would have to be introduced in Dar es Salaam on August 15th because of the low level of the Mtera dam which provides hydro-power must have sent a further shiver down the spines of investors but longer term prospects for electricity supplies are good with many projects under way and new ones starting.

DRASTIC CUTS IN DIPLOMACY AND VEHICLES

Tanzanian diplomats received a shock when Foreign Affairs
Minister Joseph Rwegasira announced on August 9th that six of Tanzania’s 26 foreign missions would close shortly including, it is believed, Ottawa, Geneva, Paris and Harare following the closure in 1993 of the embassies in Angola, Zaire and Rwanda. In the remaining missions staff would be reduced and no more than four diplomats would man the largest. It was hoped to save $10 million per year. A new embassy has been opened in South Africa.

The government has also announced that three-quarters of its 18,000 vehicle fleet would be earmarked for sale through public auction. There would be a loan scheme for certain government officers. Two vehicles would remain in pools for each ministry and government department.

REVENUE COLLECTION SUCCESS

By late July there was good news. Revenue collected during the fiscal year 1993/94 had reached TShs 242.4 billion, ahead of the government’s target; it was the largest collection ever and gave general satisfaction all round – DRB.

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PUBLIC ENTERPRISE REFORM AND PRIVATISATION

The creation of state enterprises, whether by nationalisation or new starts, was an important instrument of policy in Tanzania for over two decades until the mid-1980’s. Most such firms enjoyed a combination of a monopoly position and preferential treatment with lack of accountability for results that has been characteristic of public enterprises worldwide. Multilateral and bilateral donors and their advisers assisted many such enterprises and share responsibility for results.

AIMS OF THE STATE ENTERPRISE POLICY
The aims of policy were many fold, including: gaining national control and thus pursuing self-reliance; taking initiatives to promote development where the private sector was seen as inactive; broadening the indigenous managerial base; achieving widespread regional development, and employment creation. Substantial progress was achieved towards many of these goals but by the late 1970’s it had become clear that commercial results and prospects were poor: on the one hand consumers’ interests were not being served, and on the other, most enterprises would neither be able to replace their initial capital nor create savings for the future.

RESPONSE OF THE GOVERNMENT TO PROBLEMS FACED
The response since the mid-80’s has been fourfold.

Firstly, parastatals in a monopoly position have gradually been expected to meet competition, often for the first time, as in the case of agricultural marketing bodies. An example is Tanzania Hides and Skins which, as a private purchasing and processing firm in the early 70’s had achieved around a 60% market share. Once nationalised it was given a monopoly and was profitable, but when the internal market was opened to new entrants in the mid-1980’s its 100% market share slid until the early 90’s when it almost hit zero; rental income from properties leased to competitors was sufficient to sustain the remaining staff houses and vehicles.

The second response has been to introduce external competition through liberalised imports, which has tested private and public sector firms alike. For some commodities, such as beer and clothing, import duties have in practice not been fully collected so import penetration has accelerated and public enterprises such as TEXCO have been hard hit: 13 of TEXC0’s 14 textile businesses are technically bankrupt.

Thirdly, the commercial banks – primarily the NBC and CRDB – have been expected to exercise commercial judgement in extending credit, and the share of parastatal firms in lending has dropped accordingly. Many firms, aware of the restructuring that must be undertaken if they are to be commercially viable, are unable to proceed because they have neither the reserves nor credibility in the eyes of lenders to be provided with further resources.

This constraint is paralleled by the fourth policy response by government which is, under the ‘hard budget constraint’, to decline to provide subsidies or additional share capital to public enterprises. This has affected marginal businesses such as Southern Paper Mills which, despite investment of over $400 million (in today’s prices) has yet to become profitable – but many other firms depend on it.

CONSTRUCTIVE INITIATIVES
This competitive commercial environment has led to many constructive initiatives by firms themselves, their holding companies (there are 28, some providing services of uncertain value) and potential buyers or joint venture partners. The emergence of the latter is the result of the latest policy thrust which complements those taken earlier. Divestiture of parastatals to private owners is actively being sought by the Presidential Parastatal Sector Reform Commission (PSRC) set up in 1992, whose policies have been set out in the Parastatal Privatisation and Reform Master Plan, published by Government in August 1993, and updated by the 1993 Review and Action Plan for 1994 and 1995, which was scheduled to be published in mid- 1994.

Divestiture has begun to take a variety of forms: in 1993 some 20 firms were sold, either through outright sales or joint ventures with a (majority) trade partner, or leases. A further two dozen firms were placed in liquidation or closed, and the assets put to alternative use. Sales included most firms in the leather sector; Carnaud Metal Box (T) Ltd reverted to the control of its former parent as a result of dilution of the government shareholding; the largest sale was that of Tanzania Breweries Ltd in which Indol 1nternational B.V. a subsidiary of South African Breweries, obtained a controlling interest by competitive tender which included assurances about rehabilitation as well as construction of a long-awaited brewery in Mwanza. In addition, Kunduchi Hotels, Mafia Island Lodge, the Mount Meru Hotel and Serengeti Safari Lodges have been leased to the French Accor (Novotel) Group.

BRINGING UNPALATABLE TRUTHS TO THE SURFACE
Divestiture as a process has the characteristic of bringing unpalatable truths to the surface – like, in the UK, the full cost of decommissioning nuclear power stations. A couple of Tanzanian examples will suffice. Firstly, in textiles, apart from the problem of protection mentioned earlier, divestiture requires the resolution of awkward questions on outstanding unserviceable debts, and raises the question: given the original (often erroneous) choice of location, inputs, technology and product mix, what can be done to help attract a buyer? Secondly, in the case of a firm supplying good quality professional services, the management wishes to purchase the company from the Government – an attractive MBO proposition. The assets comprise a solid, experienced team and some equipment in a leased building. A perfectly feasible proposition until it was realised that the main assets in fact comprised some three dozen executive and staff houses, undervalued, and rented to employees for between £1 and £2 per month. The business could not sustain the cost of purchasing or maintaining such a property portfolio. The solution? That requires another article!

By the end of 1993 almost 120 further enterprises were under consideration for divestiture. Other businesses which will remain under public ownership for the time being, such as Tanzania Harbours Authority, are likely to enter into Performance Contracts with their parent Ministry, spelling out their commercial and other objectives and accountabilities. Others, like Tanzania Telecommunications Limited, are divesting non-core functions such as subscriber premises wiring and preparation of directories, while inviting private firms to supply new services e.g. card-operated public call boxes and cellular networks.

PARASTATAL POLICY CHANGE WITHOUT A CHANGE IN RULING PARTY
All told, policy towards the parastatal sector has changed as dramatically and almost as rapidly in Tanzania as similar policies in Hungary or Poland but without a change in ruling party. Progress in ownership change, as a tool of parastatal reform rather than as a goal in itself, is likely to continue, but not at a breakneck pace. Reaching a consensus on the best courses of action requires consultation with managers, employers, the holding company and within Government.

Experience to date suggests that employees and their OTTU (Trade Union) representatives are well aware of the need for structural and management change including, often, an interim reduction in employment. However, the benefits of any programme of enterprise reform inevitably tend to emerge only over a period. So far though, the level of commitment to the programme remains high. 1994 should reveal whether enterprise buyers are similarly enthusiastic.
Bevan Waide

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TANZANIA IN THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA

MAJOR MALARIA VACCINE BREAKTHROUGH

Several newspapers (The BANGKOK POST, WORLD BANK NEWS, THE LONDON TIMES, VACCINE and others) gave prominence recently to what might be a major breakthrough in the search for an effective vaccine against malaria. Developed in Colombia and tested in Phase 1 on 41,000 volunteers in Latin America, the SPf66 vaccine was then ‘much more seriously tested (in Phase 2)’ according to Head of Tropical Disease Research at WHO, Dr. Tore Godal, ‘in very intense transmission conditions in the Kilombero District of Tanzania’. Inhabitants there suffer about 100 times more mosquito bites than in Colombia; the average in Kilombero is 25 bites by infected mosquitoes per night. The success of the Tanzania tests has paved the way for the final phase of testing, with initial results expected in October this year. Further tests are being carried out in Gambia and Thailand with results due next year. Still more tests over the next two years could mean an effective vaccine in widespread use by 1988 the WHO spokesman said. It was anticipated that when fully developed the vaccine would cost less than five dollars per injection. If the new vaccine works it would be the first vaccine ever to work against a parasitic disease.

STRIFE ON THE FIFTH FLOOR

When the late President Habyarimana of Rwanda was shot down at Kigali airport on April 6th he was returning from a peace conference held in the Kilimanjaro Hotel in Dar es Salaam. The Rwandan delegation, hearing what had happened, did not feel inclined to return home. As the conflict in Rwanda worsened, so too did relations on the fifth floor of the hotel, according to THE TIMES (July 12) as anti-government rebels and Hutu extremists were in adjacent rooms. Armed Rwandans began jostling each other in the lifts and goading each other in the restaurants. Former Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana complained to the Tanzanian Chief of Security that he was receiving death threats (from across the corridor) from former Presidential aide Desire Mageza. Mr Mageza said: “He’s mad. How do you say in English? He has la Megalomanie”. Finally Tanzanian security decided that the extremists should be removed from the hotel. “It’s incredible how much these people hate each other” a security officer said. Mr Mageza and five members of the Rwandan presidential guard were put on a bus to the airport. Tanzanian Foreign Minister Joseph Rwegasira later said that the Rwandans had left behind an unpaid hotel bill of £133,000.

WORLD BANK LAMENTS ITS ROLE IN TANZANIA

The FINANCIAL TIMES (July 27) reported that it had obtained a 2-volume 1990 confidential internal analysis of relations between the World Bank and Tanzania during the period 1961 to 1987. Tanzania had received $15 billion in aid (including £2 billion form the Bank). The report criticised the Bank’s ‘stance of uncritical support for Tanzania’s impractical socialist vision and egalitarian folly’. Until 1980 the Bank had viewed Tanzania as ‘coming close to being a model developing country. The belated recognition of the existence of a chronically ailing economy casts doubt on the transparency of the Bank’s decision-making process’.

IN THE ABSENCE OF GUINNESS

Kate Adam writing in the June 1994 NEWSLETTER OF THE TROPICAL AGRICULTURE ASSOCIATION explained the work she has been carrying out on Maesopsis eminii, an invasive tree species causing widespread degradation to the stability of the remaining primary forest of the East Usambara mountains. Initially introduced in good faith by the Forest Department in the early 1960’s as a fast growing, commercial exotic tree to regenerate heavily logged forest, it is now considered a major threat to the survival of endemic forest species. CDC has begun an eradication programme at the East Usambara Tea Company Ltd. The writer went on to describe how her year in Tanzania had taught her how to avoid rolling a battered Landrover in the monsoon rains, a hundred and one ways to cook with a mango, how to alleviate dysentery from a raw squid salad and how to survive in the complete absence of Guinness.

THE MOROGORO CONFERENCE

The curtain is gradually being lifted on the South African ANC’s activities during the long years of the anti-apartheid struggle in which Tanzania took such a prominent role. Stephen Ellis, writing in AFRICAN AFFAIRS (April) described many of the internal problems faced by the ANC from 1963 when growing numbers of South Africans joined the resistance forces in Tanzania. The ANC had four camps in the country which became bases for the ‘Umkhonto wa Sizwe’ guerrilla soldiers. In 1967 Umkhonto launched its first foreign military offensive in the Wankie district of Rhodesia. ‘Using inappropriate tactics and with poor logistic support the forces were badly mauled by Rhodesian troops. Some of the survivors, eventually making their way back to Tanzania, were highly critical of the ANC leadership – Chris Hani wrote an angry memorandum … and, according to one report, was sentenced to death for insubordination before being reprieved … the result was a major ANC consultative conference at Morogoro in 1969 which made sweeping changes in ANC leadership and set down a longterm strategy for the future…..’

BATTLE FOR PRESS FREEDOM

Any observer of the Tanzanian scene cannot but be impressed by the extent of press freedom in the country nowadays and by the proliferation of privately owned newspapers. But, according to NEW AFRICAN (June 1994) the media are still locked in a monumental battle to maintain this press freedom. The journal reported that the editor of the ‘Express’ had been taken to the Central Police Station in Dar es Salaam for ten hours in March and questioned about an article he had printed which blamed the government for failing to clean up the garbage of narcotics, refuse and harmful foods that were poisoning the country. The publisher of the ‘Citizen’ had been charged with sedition and the editor of ‘Tazama’ was said to have been charged with publishing seditious material. This get tough stance by the government was said to be retaliation against the press for forcing the government to abandon last year a proposed ‘Media Professions Regulation Bill’ it wished to introduce. The press had insisted that this Bill would have been unconstitutional.

‘HOW MARVELLOUS TO BE BACK!’

Extracts from an article headed ‘Tanzania Revisited’ by Sister Maria von Opdorp in WHITE FATHERS WHITE SISTERS (June- July 1994): How marvellous it was to be back in Mwanza after 23 years. The banana trees, the mango trees. Lake Victoria, the beautiful light and the brilliant colours of the earth and vegetation – all so much warmer than our Dutch colours. The first few nights I had to get used to all the noises. The dogs go on barking until late into the night. At dawn the whole regiment is awake again – birds, cocks, dogs, cows – the lot… I noticed many changes in Tanzania. The women are much more self-confident than they were. They are dressed African fashion in ‘khangas’ and ‘kitenges’ and no longer copy European fashions. I witnessed no aggressivity to Europeans, such as I had experienced previously. On the other hand, there is great poverty …. I saw a woman of eighty cutting rocks into small stones for 180 shillings a day. 180 shillings is 30 pence!…

ONE OF BRITAIN’S MOST RADICAL COMPANIES

This is how the GUARDIAN (August 16) described the Gateshead-based ‘Traidcraft’, the ‘fair trade company’, when writing about the company’s recent ‘social audit’ which has covered everything from recycling its apricot packaging to its corporate ethos. More than two thirds of the products sold by Traidcraft, which has annual sales of £6.3 million, employs 120 and has 4,000 shareholders, come from the developing world. Contributors include the 1,227-member Tabora Beekeepers Cooperative which receives from Traidcraft 32% more per 28kg bucket of honey than from its other export customer and 55% above the local market price.

EFFECTS OF THE DROUGHT

Tanzania suffered a 413,000 tonne deficit in production of food crops during the 1993/94 season according to the French publication MARCHES TROPICAUX (July 8). There had been falls of 21% in maize and 36% in wheat. The problem was caused by drought, crop disease and shortage of fertilisers. It was feared that the food deficit for 1994/95 would be far more dramatic and amount to 945,000 tonnes.

ORNITHOLOGICAL FRAUD?

Several issues of the DAILY TELEGRAPH in June reminded readers of the exploits of the adventurer, soldier, gamehunter, bird-watcher and spy Richard Meinertzhagen. On Christmas Day in 1915, as a British officer in Tanganyika, with 15 of his scouts, he had rushed a German camp, bayoneted all the African soldiers and shot the German commander in his tent as he was about to sit down to his Christmas dinner. Why waste a good meal?” he asked as he sat down to eat with a fellow British officer, undismayed by the body of the dead German on the bed. The latter’s papers revealed him to have been a Duke. “The first Duke I have killed” Meinertzhagen wrote subsequently.

But the object of the Telegraph articles was to reveal the ornithological exploits of Meinertzhagen. In later years he became one of Britain’s foremost field naturalists and was awarded the British Ornithologists’ Union’s most prestigious medals and a CBE. He donated his 20,000-bird collection to the Natural History Museum in London. It now appears however that he was probably a fraud. Some of his bird skins are alleged to have been stolen from the Leningrad, Paris, American and British museums over a number of years. A committee has been set up to scrutinise his work. His 66-year old son, who is an investment banker, has vowed to clear his father’s name.

‘THE MOST SUCCESSFUL PROJECT I HAVE EVER SEEN’

‘When I was working on agricultural research linkages in Tanzania in 1990 I came across in Arusha an NGO project – the Village Sunflower Project – that was the most successful I have ever seen in 29 years of working in developing countries’ wrote John Russell in the NEWSLETTER OF THE TROPICAL AGRICULTURE ASSOCIATION (June 1994). The project, under the umbrella of the Lutheran Diocese, had begun in 1986 when Appropriate Technology International helped to fund a small company to manufacture scissor-jack oilseed presses designed by the Institute of Production Innovation at the University of Dar es Salaam. The oilseed cake was used as animal fodder which increased local milk supplies; the most appropriate seed variety was selected; and, employment was created in the oil production units. By 1989 sixty units were functioning in 40 villages, and 100,000 litres of edible oil were being produced in a year. In 1993 there were 1,000 production units in 800 villages all over the country. Ten local manufacturers were now producing ram-pressses and these were being exported to other countries.

JOINING THE WORLD’S BIG LEAGUE OF GOLD PRODUCERS

This is the prospect for Tanzania according to AFRICA ANALYSIS (June 10) quoting Canadian mining company Baker Talc. High hopes are centred on Lupa District near Mbeya which is described as ‘possibly one of the most intensely mineralised gold provinces in the world’ and where the company is acquiring 50 million acres for gold and diamond exploration. The Soviet Group Technoexport explored there in the 1970’s and estimated total known resources of 1.4 million ounces of gold. Although Tanzania’s gold exports are currently worth about $50 million a year the country’s mineral opportunities were said to have lain largely dormant during the last 25 years because of the political climate.

STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN THEORY AND PRAGMATISM

A thoughtful article under this heading written by Susie Bowen, a speech therapist at the Muhimbili Medical Centre in Dar es Salaam, published in the May/June issue of HUMAN COMMUNICATION raised some fundamental issues on speech therapy in a developing country context. ‘By introducing our profession, are we contributing to the saturation of wellmeaning ‘white’ agencies in Tanzania that reinforce the pervasive notion that West is Best?’ she asked. She went on: ‘Nobody will say no to the educated European and often won’t even ask what speech therapy is before accepting it; …..we are asking people to believe in something that is not supported by the environment and in a service that will not be widely available (in Tanzania) for many years to comer…..’our individualistic society (in Britain) teaches us to claim our rights to expert advice and to demand a solution. The philosophy of life in Tanzania is very different; essential resources are perceived as being good primary health, family support and community networks; beyond these, most Tanzanians have not had the luxury of their needs being met. We must be careful not to impose our values and methods ….'(Thank you Roger Bowen for this item -Editor).

“WE CRY A LOT”

‘Sitting on the floor outside the smoky cookhouse at Igurubi near Tabora ten or so women are talking. Some are employed at the hospital, others are caring and cooking for their invalid relatives and one is a British volunteer. They are talking about children, according to the Spring issue of HABARI YA HPA (Health Projects Abroad). They look incredulous as the British volunteer explains she is 29, unmarried and has no children. She says that she might get married in two years’ time and would then want two children. But what if one of them dies? the Tanzanians ask. How do you begin to explain, the article goes on, that while the infant mortality rate in Tanzania in 1991 was 178 per 1,000 live births in the UK it was nine per 1,000. On one matter all are agreed. If a child dies, “we are very sad and cry a lot”. “Sana, sana” they say as they all shake their heads.

A UNIQUE RAILWAY LINE

Describing the recent train safari of tourists from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, the Dar es Salaam EXPRESS’S Apolinari Tairo (August 7) explained that the train was named the ‘Pride of Africa’ and had been used in Edwardian times and recently renovated. The owner of the train said that Southern Tanzania was one of the most interesting geological areas in the world – especially the rift valley near Mbeya. The train had passed through 23 man-made tunnels which made the TAZARA railway line unique in Africa. Some of the potential new tourist attractions in Tanzania were the cool and attractive shores of Lake Malawi, mountain scenery and the 25-ton Mbozi meteorite.

VENTURE CAPITAL

The June issue of the ECONOMIST contained an advertisement for ‘Tanzania Venture Capital Ltd.’ (Bulletin No 47). Equity capital is US$ 6.61 million provided by financial institutions in Britain, Germany, Sweden and Tanzania supported by USAID and the Commonwealth Development Agency (UK) (Thank you John Sankey for this item – Editor).

MEDICINE CHESTS

An interesting evaluation of the health component of the Hereford-Muheza link in the BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL (16 April) indicated that there have been 64 sabbatical visits during the last eight years, half from Hereford to Muheza and half from Muheza to Hereford. Each traveller from Hereford takes and leaves behind a pack containing drugs, syringes and drip set. The contents of the packs were listed in the article: Chloroquine phosphate tabs; Proguinal tabs; Quinine sulphate; Fansidar; Erythromycin stearate tabs; Betadine ointment; Loperamide caps; Chlorpheniramine tabs; Hydrocortisone cream; Anthisan cream; and, Haemacel (Thank you Oliver Murphy for sending this item from Spain – Ed).

RE-STRUCTURING WILLIAMSONS DIAMOND MINES

AFRICA ANALYSIS (June 10) reported that South Africa’s De Beers company was negotiating with the Tanzanian government to ‘re-structure’ the Williamson Diamond Mine in Shinyanga where output had declined sharply to 25,000 carats a year.

DISEASE KILLS SERENGETI LIONS

A disease believed to be Canine Distemper Virus that gives lions convulsions has killed 85 of the 3,000 lions in the Serengeti according to AFRICAN ECONOMIC DIGEST (August 1). In one case an animal turned repeatedly in tight circles; many other lions suffered neurological damage; some lions showed a persistent twitch that contorts half the face in an involuntary sneer. The disease could threaten Tanzania’s tourism industry, now earning about $120 million annually … the disease comes after a devastating drought which had affected the number of visitors to the Serengeti: numbers had gone down by as much as 30%…

ONE OF THE GREAT GOLD MINES OF EAST AFRICA

The TIMES (August 10) reported that the mining group Cluff Resources would be taking a 90% stake and investing USS3.0 million in developing the Geita gold mine to make it into one of the great gold mines of East Africa. Between 1938 and its closure in 1966 it had produced 900,000 ounces of gold. Mr Cluff described the mine as a significant property and Cluff shares rose on the London Stock Exchange by 5.25% to 52.5%.

MISS BONGOIAND 1994*

Under this heading the Dar es Salaam DAILY NEWS has been describing Tanzania’s recently re-introduced Miss Tanzania competition held in Dar es Salaam. Such competitions had been banned since 1967. “Is it true” asked one person who missed the contest “that the girls had to put on Khanga’s to cover their swim suits”. “Yes”, was the answer “it was to avoid the girls exposing their thighs …. because some people think that that would be Western culture”. Then there was a dispute about the choice of winner. She was 20-year old Aina Maida, a student in Virginia USA, who had entered the competition after the closing date for applications. “If you look at the way she walks” one lady protested “you could tell that she is not from Tanzania”. Miss Maeda however will be representing Tanzania at the Miss World Competition in South Africa in November. She beat 26 other participants.

* It has become common practice amongst Tanzanians to call their country ‘Bonqoland’ which is derived from the Swahili word ‘bongo’ meaning brains. The reference is to the economic plight of the country and the need for everyone to use his/her brains to augment very low salaries through outside income-earning activities – Editor.

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MISCELLANY

MRAMBA COMMISSION
Proposals to reduce the size of the Government from the
present 20 ministries to 15 ministries would save the government TShs 10,788,793,660 per year according to the report of the Mramba Presidential Commission set up to look into ways of reducing government expenditure. The Mramba Commission also said that ‘the continued economic crisis and the poor state of government finances are the result of the failure by parliament to ensure better performance by the government’ – Business Times.

STREET RENAMED 1N SPITE OF OBJECTION
The Dar es Salaam City Council has gone ahead with renaming Pugu Road as Julius K Nyerere Road and has erected a signpost there in spite of having received a letter from Mwalimu Nyerere asking it not to do so. The Mayor of the city was quoted in the ‘Family Mirror’ as saying that he had no right to rescind the Council’s decision.

WANTED – JUDGES FOR THE HIGH COURT
Upset by news that the government had disqualified a judge in a sensitive case because he was a human rights activist, the Dar es Salaam Express’s satirist ‘Squint Eye’ (July 28) drew up a job description for the post of judge in Tanzania:

Qualifications: At least 10 years experience in defending the government against its own laws and the constitution; a tendency to administer harsh sentences for any infringement against the state would be an advantage;

Duties: To preside over all cases against the state and produce verdicts which.. ..convince the ignorant populace that the interests of justice have been served; (verdicts should be issued) only after ensuring that the case has lasted so long that all public interest has died….

Remuneration: An attractive salary, a luxury villa belonging to a member of government, 24 hour security and protection against discontented litigants …. an attractive bonus for any judgement in favour of the state…

RED LOCUST THREAT
Tabora, Singida, Kigoma and Rukwa are under threat from red locusts, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture has stated. With the help of a donation of $193,000 from FAO the government has ordered chemicals, aviation fuel and spare parts for a sprayer plane which had been grounded previously for lack of insurance and the need for repairs – Daily News.

WOMEN BEATEN TO DEATH
Twelve women had been beaten to death by their husbands between 1991 and 1993 the Home Affairs Minister Augustine Mrema said at a conference on the Position of Women in Multiparty Democracy at the University of Dar es Salaam recently. There would be no democracy until women were accorded respect and fair treatment he said. He went on to state that 5,260 women had been beaten and harassed since 1991 with the heaviest incidence in Mbeya region. In 1993 1,954 women had been raped, the highest rate being in Dar es Salaam – Daily News.

TROOPS PRAISED
The Chairman of the Interim Government of Liberia, Mr David Kpormakpor, has appealed to Tanzania not to withdraw its soldiers from the peacekeeping mission in the country as they are doing a good job. The, same views were expressed by NPFL leader Charles Taylor who said that the Tanzanian troops were displaying ‘the best performance and were maintaining their neutrality’.
Visiting Tanzanian Defence Minister Abdulrahman Kinana commended the troops for the positive image they were building in Liberia – Daily News.

ELEPHANTS ON THE RAMPAGE
More than 700 elephants from Kenya entered Rombo District in Kilimanjaro Region and destroyed hundreds of acres of cash and food crops during July. The elephants, in groups of from 20 to 50 entered Rombo at night and walked back in the early hours leaving behind an orgy of crop destruction. On June 24th 17 elephants had been shot dead by Game Wardens in a four-hour operation. The District Commissioner has appealed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take the matter up with their counterparts in Kenya – Daily News.

ENVIRONMENT BILL

The Government is expected to introduce shortly a new Bill to Parliament – The Environment Protection Bill 1994. It will probably have 180 sections according to Robert Rweyemamu writing in the Business Times (June 10). It is expected to cover industrial pollution, conservation of endangered species, hazardous waste, genetically modified organisms and the setting up of an Environment Protection Court. A section of the Bill deals with definitions. ‘Litter’ is defined as ‘rubbish, refuse, junk, filth, garbage, scrap or other articles or material abandoned or unwanted by the owner or possessor thereof’.

CROPPING CROCODILES

Plans are under way to reduce the population of crocodiles in Tanzania by some 12,000 within three years the Minister of Tourism, Natural Resources and Environment Mr Juma Omar has announced. But approval would first have to be obtained from the crocodile specialist group (WCU) within the international organisation concerned with wildlife conservation – CITES. If permission could be obtained it was hoped to harvest some 5,000 crocodiles in 1995 – Daily News.

TWIN-OTTERS

The Air Tanzania Corporation (ATC) has sold its three Twin- Otter planes and does not intend to buy any others because, according to Deputy Minister for Works, Transport and Communications Hemed Kombo, they are expensive to operate. From 1989 to 1993 the ATC had operated a fleet of nine planes but the number had dwindled for technical and operational reasons – Daily News.

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HOME SWEET HOME

ta49_part1-23

Research suggests that lions in the Ngorongoro Crater spend 20 hours out of every 24 asleep. Anyone intending to watch lions for months rather than minutes should, therefore, arm themselves with a substantial library and the address of a good psychiatrist. For a short time my sanity was saved by a bee.

My attention was first drawn to the insect during the filming of an inexpert hunt by a pride of eight lions. Just as they were about to ambush some zebra and the kill seemed certain, a stallion caught sight of one of the lurking cats. The zebra stampeded and the lions charged. Faced with a confusing array of high-speed stripes, not one of the eight lions snagged so much as a whisker.

All this time I was being intermittently bothered by an extremely annoying bee buzzing in front of my face at the most inopportune moments. My attention became focused when I saw it carry a tiny piece of rolled-up leaf on to a bolt-hole on my camera mount. I watched it unwrap this leaf and glue it to the wall of the tube. Leaf-cutting bees live in burrows and holes of a certain diameter, not in hives.

I moved my Land Rover several hundred yards and, to my surprise, not five minutes later, I saw a bee carrying another rolled up piece of leaf to the same hole. Aha I thought, they’re opportunists, and this new bee thinks it has been saved some work – what a pity these efforts will also be wasted.

I returned to the camp for the night and, as soon as my head touched the pillow, it was five o’clock in the morning and time to get up. My lions had killed in the night. I pulled up near the carcase of the wildebeest and prepared for a long wait. As I levelled the tripod, a bee flew into the bolt-hole with a piece of leaf. Now this was getting ridiculous. It was impossible, surely, that this was the same insect.

Over the course of several drives across the crater floor, the lining of the cell was completed, and the bee – for now it was evident that it really was one insect – started collecting pollen. Somehow, it was able to keep up with the vehicle and continue its work despite all the trying problems I was giving it. But the mystery remained. What happened at night? That evening I watched carefully. At 5.30 pm the bee returned to my camera and went to bed. Clearly, it had suffered the bone-shaking drive, the engine vibration and each freezing night on the crater rim to remain with its nursery. At this point the bee achieved a notoriety out of all proportion to its size and became something of a project mascot.

The next day, every move of filming position became fraught with anxiety. Had the bee made it? At one stage, Gil Domb, the producer, came up alongside me. Would two identical Land Rovers parked side by side, cause confusion? No problem for this bee. But then I had to move off to take up a position 200 yards away. Five minutes later, Gil called me on the radio. The bee was frantically searching his Land Rover. Could I come immediately and pick it up. I did, and there was great relief all round when it returned to the right vehicle.
At five 0’clock that May evening, the cell was neatly plugged and the bee flew off for the last time. It was a sad parting but also something of a relief. The whole thing was becoming far too much of a responsibility.

But, you may ask, what happened to its brood? The brood travelled more than 600 miles to various parts of the Serengeti and elsewhere. It was sealed in a camera case while I was on holiday. Then, one September morning, when I was back filming in the crater again, a movement caught my eye. With great astonishment and delight, I watched as a bee emerged. By incredible coincidence, it was just a few yards from its place of birth.
Alastair MacEwen

(This article appeared first in ‘BBC Wildlife’ – Ed)

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