Dar es Salaam. On April 5, 2023, Moshi Resident Magistrate’s Court set free former Hai district commissioner Lengai Ole Sabaya, who was facing economic sabotage charges, ordering him not to commit a criminal offence for a duration of one year.
His release follows his submission of a request to the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office to settle the matter outside the court.
We look back at some of Mr Sabaya’s controversial decisions and Tanzania’s attempts to imprison the controversial DC:
July 31, 2018: Former Kilimanjaro regional commissioner, the late Anna Mghwira swears in Mr Sabaya as the Hai district commissioner following an appointment by the then-president John Magufuli.
August 16, 2018: Mr Sabaya orders the arrest and detention of an investor Mr Jensen Natai, director of Tudeley Estate, and his lawyer Mr Edward Mroso for allegedly causing the government to lose Sh713 million in revenue through tax dodging for seven years.
January 16, 2019: Mr Sabaya orders councillors from Hai district out of a hall where the District Financial Committee was taking place, saying that he wanted to use the hall to distribute entrepreneurship IDs to the district’s small traders.
March 13, 2019: Mr Sabaya launches a campaign of hearing people’s complaints about the land, which led to the dispossession of the land owned by the opposition CHADEMA chairperson and then the party’s Hai MP Freeman Mbowe.
March 21, 2019: Mr Sabaya orders the arrest and detention of his driver, who was allegedly used by a local investor to take a Sh1 million bribe from the investor and handle it to Mr Sabaya. Both the driver and the investor were arrested and detained at Bomang’ombe Police Post in Hai.
July 22, 2019: Businessman Carthbert Swai, who owns the Weruweru River Lodge, comes forward to accuse Mr Sabaya of soliciting a Sh5 million bribe from him. Mr Swai also alleged, during a meeting with Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), that Mr Sabaya arrested and detained the hotel’s deputy manager Ibrahim Kapilima in his attempts to force the manager to reveal the hotel’s revenue information to him.
October 28, 2020: Mr Mbowe alleges that Mr Sabaya, with vehicles with United Nations plate numbers, and fully armed, stormed into Aishi Hotel in Machame, Moshi, intending to hurt and kill him. While at the hotel, Mr Sabaya reportedly tortured, abducted, and seriously injured two guards.
May 10, 2021: Mr Sabaya, during an interview with Clouds TV’s Clouds 360 program, denies the accusations directed against him, calling them “a special project” designed to deal with him, saying what he has been doing as Hai DC was to put a stop to lies perpetrated by opposition parties in the district for so many years.
May 13, 2021: President Samia Suluhu suspends Mr Sabaya as Hai DC; launches investigations into the accusations that he faces.
June 4, 2021: The government charges Mr Sabaya, alongside five others, with armed robbery, money laundering, economic sabotage, leading a criminal gang and corruption.
October 15, 2021: Court says it was satisfied that the prosecution has proved armed robbery charges against Mr Sabaya and his accomplices, sentencing them to 30 years in prison each.
May 5, 2022: The High Court of Tanzania, the Arusha zone, frees Mr Sabaya and two of his colleagues after judges found that there were flaws in the entire process that led to their conviction, which included disagreements between witnesses. It followed an appeal submitted by Sabaya’s lawyers.
June 10, 2022: Court drops all economic sabotage charges against Mr Sabaya and co-accused due to legal shortcomings observed in the case’s charge sheet.
April 5, 2023: The Moshi Resident Magistrate’s Court frees Mr Sabaya, ordering him not to commit a criminal offence for a duration of one year. It followed Sabaya’s agreement with prosecutors to settle the matter outside the court.
Lukelo Francis is The Chanzo journalist based in Dar es Salaam Tanzania. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.