I have thoroughly examined the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) statement, which is a collective stance of Catholic bishops in Tanzania. In essence, these bishops oppose the investment in the Tanzanian port, asserting that the IGA contract lacks support from the majority of Tanzanians.
By exercising their right to freedom of expression, TEC has effectively used their ability to voice their opinions. For this, we express gratitude to the government of President Samia Suluhu for strengthening democracy and freedom of expression in the country.
Consequently, we must show respect for their views, as there is no legal obligation for anyone or any government to implement these opinions.
Given this latitude to express opinions, why should the government and Tanzanians dismiss TEC’s statement? Several key points highlight why Tanzanians and the government might consider setting aside TEC’s statement:
Absence of religious authority over legal frameworks
Decisions made by our nation and numerous others around the world, rooted in democratic principles, are guided by the rule of law and a country’s constitution rather than the dictates of any particular religion or belief system. Likewise, Tanzania, governed by the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania (1977), is not bound to comply with TEC’s call for the government to terminate the DP World contract based on the claim of public opposition, as this does not carry legal weight.
Lack of Scientific Substantiation in TEC’s Document
Despite the length of TEC’s document, it fundamentally lacks empirical evidence and leans on emotional appeals. The statement presented by Father Charles Kitima fails to offer scientific statistics or research findings demonstrating that Tanzanians oppose the DP World contract.
It seems that TEC’s document may have been authored by an individual, purporting to represent the sentiments of a larger group in order to gain societal approval. However, in today’s context, well-supported arguments require data from specialized research or scientific measurements conducted in laboratories to gain credibility.
Historical Context: Religion vs. Science
Historical instances, such as the Galileo Galilei controversy during the 17th century, highlight the tension between religious beliefs and scientific discoveries. Galileo’s heliocentric model of the solar system contradicted religious teachings, leading to his condemnation by the Catholic Church.
Nevertheless, contemporary scientific advancements overwhelmingly validate Galileo’s assertions. Similarly, past conflicts where the Catholic Church opposed medical surgeries and astronomical education are contrasted with today’s acceptance of these practices due to scientific and technological progress.
These examples cast doubt on the reliability of TEC’s claims concerning Tanzania’s port investment, which has essentially made a decision on port development stemming from scientific research.
President Samia Suluhu’s government has assessed the situation with the input of both internal and external experts and is well-informed about the advantages for Tanzanian citizens. Using scientific research, mathematics, and statistics, the government has formulated decisions about why a foreign investor like DP World is essential for the development of our ports.
TEC’s position within a spectrum of religious institutions
Tanzania houses diverse religious denominations and institutions. TEC is one among several religious organizations registered under the 2000 Civil Society Organizations Act.
While every entity has the right to voice opinions, in matters of national importance, the nation’s laws are the ultimate arbitrator rather than individual or collective sentiments. Should any issue directly concerns the national interests, then the country’s laws will be used to rule on the matter and none other.
Any religious group can come out and give their stance on any rising matter in the country; the government is not obliged to act responsibly on their biased personalized sentiments but rather to listen.
Misrepresentation by Father Kitima
Father Kitima’s assertion that no foreign investor has been involved in Tanzanian ports since independence is a clear falsehood. This statement either arises from ignorance or a deliberate intention to mislead the Tanzanian public. For over two decades, the Dar es Salaam port has been operated by TICTS, a joint venture with a Hong Kong-based company (Hutchison).
In conclusion, TEC’s document should be treated as expressions of opinion that any individual or group can put forth. The government, led by President Samia Suluhu, should proceed with the port investment process to promote development for Tanzanians. Government decisions and actions should be based on the country’s legal framework, scientific evidence, statistics, and research to ensure positive outcomes for the people.