Amid heated debate on the involvement of a Dubai firm in the development and improvement of Tanzania’s sea and lake gateways, the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) came out yesterday and strongly defended the government’s position.
TPA director general Plasduce Mbossa also said there was misinformation being spread by those opposed to the plan.
He clarified several issues in connection with the debate on social media regarding the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between Tanzania and the emirate of Dubai on social and economic partnership for the development and improving the performance of sea and lake ports in Tanzania.
Meanwhile, Parliament said the resolution about the partnership between Tanzania and Dubai IGA on ports was still being reviewed by its relevant committees, refuting reports by a media section that the House has endorsed the document.
National Assembly Speaker Tulia Ackson told the House in Dodoma yesterday that Parliamentary committees responsible for infrastructure development and investment convened a public hearing on Tuesday and were still receiving public views via post and email.
She said the resolution was expected to be tabled in Parliament on June 10, 2023, for debating and approval after the committee review.
“Parliament will continue supporting efforts of the sixth phase government, under President Samia Suluhu Hassan, in growing the economy and development of Tanzanians,” Dr Ackson told lawmakers amid applause.
“Parliament, through its committees, is always ready to receive and discuss public opinions, which seek to improve the implementation of government plans.”
In Dar es Salaam, Mr Mbossa said those spreading the “falsehood” that there was a 100-year contract for the lease of ports in Tanzania by Dubai’s DP World were advancing their own interests.
“It seems those who brought the 100 years aspect in the subject have their own interests…it is a complete distortion of facts.
“What is known so far is that if we will stay for 12 months without doing anything, or making any progress from the date of signing the IGA, then the agreement automatically becomes null and void,” he said.
Mr Mbossa added that what had been signed so far was the IGA between Tanzania and the Emirati of Dubai on social and economic partnership for the development and improving performance of sea and lake ports in Tanzania.
HE SAID the IGA spelt out the cooperation between Tanzania and the emirate of Dubai, adding that the cooperation will be in areas of training, information and communication technology and in the development and improvement of ports in general.
Through the IGA, TPA and DP World come in as implementing bodies. Since it involves two countries, the agreement had to be endorsed by Parliament in line with Article 63 (3) (e) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977.
“The IGA has been signed, but it cannot become effective without the endorsement of the Parliament,” Mr Mbossa said.
If the IGA sails through Parliament, it will pave the way for other negotiations between TPA and DP World with regard to the implementation of the plan.
The coming negotiations will culminate in actual investment coming into Tanzania.
“We are talking of the Host Government Agreement between the country and the company, Concession Agreement or Lease Agreement for the various issues to be implemented, such as information and communication technology, training, port development, and port operations. That is when we will sign other contracts. These implementation agreements have not yet been signed. They have neither been negotiated,” Mr Mbossa said.
The HGA and the Concession or Lease Agreements will have specific time frames. “What the IGA says is that the agreement will cease to operate as soon as the HGA or the Concession/Lease Agreement/Project ends. This means that the actual time for the contract will be known from the HGA or Concession/Lease agreements that will follow.”
According to Mr Mbossa, the IGA gives rights to the two countries and allows the implementation to be conducted swiftly.
On allegations that the port was being sold, he said selling was not even one of the responsibilities of TPA.
In line with the Ports Act No. 17 of 2004, TPA’s functions include promoting the use, development and management of ports and their hinterlands and entering into contracts for the purpose of delegating the powers of the Authority to private operators.
“From there, selling ports is not one of TPA’s responsibilities. If someone tells you that the port has been sold, he should also tell you how did it happen? Will someone go away with it? Will someone else own it? We all know that in Tanzania, even the land is owned by the government, and you are only given the right of occupancy while foreigners are given derivative rights,” he said.
As for the port, one could be given the right to build/develop a port and, after some time, return it to you. The second scenario is that of leasing an existing port or berth and giving the operator Tanzania’s terms and conditions. This has been done before.
“We used to have a company known as Hutchison Holdings Limited from Hong Kong, which operated locally under the name of TICTS [Tanzania International Container Terminal Services], which operated here for 22 years. We did not sell the port to that company, so it left in December 2022. The port was only leased to the company.”
Mr Mbossa said those propagating assumptions that the port was being privatised were weakening the government’s initiatives in improving efficiency at the port amid the growing competition for cargo across the region.
What Tanzania seeks to do with DP World is attract investment, and what will be discussed is how that investment should come in. It could come in the form of leasing and concession.
On why Tanzania settled for DP World, Mr Mbossa said a number of issues were considered, including the fact that most of the cargo that comes to the country comes from the Middle East, the Far East and the Indian Ocean zone. “Most ports in East Africa get their cargo from these regions, and that was why we thought it was only prudent to join them,” he said.
He said DP World operates a dry port in Rwanda which collects cargo from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) before bringing it to Tanzania or to any other port within the region. That way, he said, it was prudent for us to cooperate with DP World in an attempt to simplify the delivery of goods from the DRC to our ports,” he said.
Those arguing why the DP World issue did not involve Zanzibar were also ignoring the fact that ports were not a union matter, and that was why TPA was only responsible for Tanzania’s mainland while another body was responsible for Zanzibar’.
Meanwhile, the debate kept attracting the attention of pundits yesterday, with ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe urging MPs to transparently debate the Parliament’s resolution for the ratification of the cooperation between the government of Tanzania and Dubai.
“And where necessary, they need to make some amendments to clear the air over the areas that seem contradictory to citizens,” he said in a statement availed to the media.
In an apparent reaction to some political sentiments, Mr Kabwe said politicians were required to show maturity by debating the DP World topic without exhibiting sentiments that would tear the country along the side of the country that they come from.
“We urge Tanzanians to strictly consider the foundations of truth as they debate this topic and avoid bringing in any discriminatory feelings which could end up dividing the nation. As political leaders, we need to be careful with the statements we make lest they create confusion on a subject that requires us to say nothing but the truth,” he said.