Dar es Salaam. The Parliamentary Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee has postponed the public hearing on the proposed amendments to the Natural Wealth and Resources (Permanent Sovereignty) Act of 2017 and the Natural Wealth and Resources Contracts (Review and Re-Negotiation of Unconscionable Terms) Act, 2017 (No. 6 of 2017).
The committee’s chairperson, Joseph Mhagama, told The Chanzo Thursday that it was seeking further clarification from the government about the proposed changes that have raised some eyebrows among observers of the country’s affairs.
The laws were among the pieces of legislation included in the Written Laws (Misc Amendment) No. 2 Bill, 2023, which intended to amend, among other laws, the country’s natural wealth and resources legislations so that they will not apply to the operations of multinational logistics company DP World’s operations in Tanzania.
The bill was first read in the parliament on June 28, 2023, and the Parliamentary Committee on Constitution and Legal Affairs invited public opinions on the sought amendments before the bill returned to the parliament later in August. The committee heard stakeholders’ opinions on August 16, 2023.
Part IV and V of the amendment bill proposes an amendment to the said laws to ensure that the implementation of those laws does not prejudice the performance of sea, dry and lake ports in the country.
The government says the amendments aim to enable Tanzania’s ports to “operate at international level and to attract more ships and large cargo to be served by ports.”
But Mr Mhagama told The Chanzo that his committee received opinions on just four pieces of the legislation the government seeks to amend, leaving out the two pieces designed to give Tanzania authorities over its natural resources.
“The bill contains six parts, the committee saw that it should work on just four of them, leaving the other two to pave the way for the engagement with the government aimed at getting the clarification of the content of the two laws,” Mr Mhagama, who doubles as Madaba MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM), said.
He said that stakeholders would be invited to present their opinions once the clarification has been received and the government has decided to proceed with the recommended amendments, adding that the committee need to “satisfy” itself with the bill’s contents before it decides to move with them.
Mr Mhagama told The Chanzo that his committee had requested explanations from the government concerning the amendments to the two pieces of legislation but failed to state when exactly he expects authorities to respond to issues raised.
“The government will be here forever; whenever they see it fit to respond to the issues we raised, they will come to the committee with their suggestions,” Mr Mhagama clarified. “It mustn’t be today, tomorrow, or next year.”
The proposed amendments to the laws come as a huge national debate is occurring around the necessity of an inter-governmental agreement between Tanzania and Dubai allowing the latter’s DP World to operate the Dar es Salaam port.
On June 10, 2023, lawmakers unanimously endorsed the controversial deal that continues to polarise the nation, with division in opinion between its supporters and critics appearing as clear as day.
The government and the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party describe the agreement as “the best deal ever,” while activists and opposition parties describe it as “the worst.”
Among those who have rejected the deal are the Catholic Bishops, whose joint statement on August 18, 2023, called on the government to listen to people’s demands to cancel the deal, saying, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”
“It is a must that projects such as this one [on port development] are run and managed by Tanzanians themselves while inviting partnerships that they will themselves control,” the thirty-seven Bishops said in their joint statement.
“This is what citizens have been crying for so that we can improve our own capacity to manage critical investments,” they continued. “Because we have already analysed the shortcomings in how we run our ports, we can work on them while the means of the economy remain in our hands.”
Lukelo Francis is The Chanzo’s journalist from Dar es Salaam. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.