Zuhura Yunus and Salim Kikeke, two Tanzanian television presenters working with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) – Swahili in London, United Kingdom, are facing an out-of-hand denunciation on social media, as they’re being accused of ‘sabotaging’ the country.
Both Yunus and Kikeke are presenters of ‘Dira ya Dunia’ a news and current affairs TV programme broadcast in Kiswahili to audiences of East and Central Africa.
The criticism, which has involved calls to physically attack Yunus, follows the interview Zuhura did with the extractive industry analyst Thabit Jacob.
In the Sept 18th interview, among other things, Jacob told Zuhura that not only has the government of Tanzania accepted to mend its ties with ‘imperialists’ and kneel down to them, it also broke its own mining laws enacted in 2017.
The term ‘imperialist’ has been commonly applied recently by the government- and the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) – linked activists to describe people who are critical of the President John Magufuli administration.
“I can give you some examples of a few sections [of the law that have been violated],” Jacob said during the interview.
“In 2017, Tanzania passed three [mining] laws. The strictest of all is the Permanent Sovereignty Act, 2017. Section 9.1 of the law states that raw mineral and concentrates shall not be exported abroad, but we’ve seen that Barrick [Gold Corporation] has been allowed to do so.”
The laws became enforceable in July 2017 following President Magufuli’s ascent. The new mining laws, which were fast-tracked through parliament, raise royalties tax for gold, copper, silver and platinum exports to six per cent from four per cent.
Following Jacob’s remarks, on September 21, 2020, government-owned Daily News newspaper quoted Government’s Chief Spokesperson Dr Hassan Abbasi refuting the Copenhagen-based expert’s claims, calling them baseless.
“It [is] not true that Barrick committed to pay a lump sum of 300 million US dollars,” Dr Abbasi, who doubles as the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports. “The truth is when Barrick pledged to release the money, it didn’t indicate the modality of payment, which is why, to begin with, the firms deposited 100 million US dollars.”
Later, BBC Swahili’s Salim Kikeke spoke to Dr Abbasi about the claims that Jacob made earlier at Dira ya Dunia TV programme, where he said:
“Contracts like those of Barrick are being discussed because the government made open its negotiation [with Barrick], made clear what was achieved, which after doing what we called renegotiation how is the government going to benefit more. So I think it is a step in the right direction in the building of openness in contracting. And you understand that the 2017’s [Mining] Act insists, and has created another layer of, transparency in the mining contracts.”
But since then, Zuhura Yunus and Salim Kikeke have been subjected to mounting smear campaign and online hate speech which have made them worried.
Examples of hate speech from Twitter include the ones that required Kikeke to remove the photo of Mount Kilimajaro from his Instagram account. “Remove the photo of Kilimanjaro Mountain from your profile picture, you stupid traitor. What wrong has [President John] Magufuli done to you, you donkey from Tanga [Northen-east Tanzania].”
Another one went as far as calling for Zuhura Yunus to be physically harmed: “I’m telling Zuhura Yunus wherever she is, she’s enemy of the nation, and when Tanzanians see her they should at least slap her. She wants to bring the conflict in this country which are baseless.”
While there has not been any reaction from Yunus, Kikeke came forward to defend himself, saying that people who attack him are motivated by their selfish motives of tarnishing his name and repution.
“I have worked as a journalist for more than 20 years and I have never and ever done any act of insulting or sabotage any person or country including Tanzania and its citizens,” wrote Kikeke in an Instagram post. “Those who spread lies about me have only one goal of tarnishing my name and reputation which I built through hardworking and observing professional ethics.”
When the attack started to get extreme, Jacob came forward in defense of the BBC journalists, penning an article on Medium, pleading with people to stop demonizing BBC journalists:
“As a researcher and analyst,” Jacob wrote, “my task was to offer an analysis in response to questions posed that day. In conducting such analyses, I have always relied on credible sources and sound research (my publications speak for themselves) that is not biased, politically influenced or part of any political agenda, and last week was no different.”