Pinda fumbles on Kiwira, Meremeta : Premier`s evasive Bunge performance only adds fuel to the fires of mystery THISDAY REPORTER Dodoma THE Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, yesterday tiptoed around serious concerns raised by members of parliament regarding the dubious privatization of the Kiwira coal mine, and also sought to silence parliamentary debate on the defunct Meremeta gold mine purportedly because the matter is classified as a military project. Winding up debate on the 2008/09 budget estimates of his office in the National Assembly in Dodoma, Pinda endeavoured to sidestep queries from MPs on allegations of corruption and abuse of office levelled against ex-president Benjamin Mkapa and former minister Daniel Yona in the 2005 Kiwira coal mine privatization issue. It looks to me like a very smooth exercise...the goal was to bring in an investor (for the mine), he said in response to a query made earlier this week by the deputy leader of the official opposition in parliament, Dr Wilbrod Slaa, on the Kiwira deal. The premier described the lucrative, state-owned coal mine as having been a dead animal at the time of its privatization and subsequent sale to TanPower Resources Limited, a private company jointly set up by Mkapa, Yona and members of their immediate families while they were still in public office. Displaying in the House a hefty document on the Kiwira privatization subject compiled by the government, Pinda said the Minister for Energy and Minerals, William Ngeleja, will make a formal parliamentary statement on the matter at an appropriate time. Surprisingly, Pinda did not directly address the allegations that through their direct involvement in the matter, both Mkapa and Yona abused public office contrary to the countrys public leadership code of ethics. On opposition camp queries about questionable payments worth billions of shillings made by the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) to the now-defunct Meremeta gold mine, the PM again gave what amounted to an evasive response. The Meremeta issue involves the Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF). It is an issue closely related to our own national defence and security. We must protect our country, he said without any further elaboration. Clearly not satisfied with Pindas response on the Meremeta issue, opposition lawmakers later in the evening demanded more government explanations on this and other related companies, including TANGOLD and Deep Green Finance, which were all paid billions of shillings by the BoT under dubious circumstances. Despite an intervention by Deputy Speaker Anne Makinda to clarify that the Parliamentary Immunities, Powers and Privileges Act (No. 3) of 1988 does indeed prohibit MPs from discussing classified information in the House, both Slaa and Bariadi East MP John Cheyo (UDP) insisted that the Meremeta project had nothing to do with military secrets. According to Slaa, the questionable payments made by the BoT to Meremeta, TANGOLD and Deep Green Finance were clearly not a military issue...claims of official secrets cannot be used to justify corruption, fraud and misappropriation of public funds. On his part, Cheyo said the premier was being unfair to Tanzanians by attempting to silence questions on possible corruption in the Meremeta deal on the grounds that it was a classified military project. The government is fumbling with this Meremeta issue�the prime minister should do justice to Tanzanians by giving us some honest answers, he said, adding: There is no evidence that the military is involved in the second Meremeta project...those linked to this project are named in their personal capacities. Additional attempts by the Minister of State in the Prime Ministers Office (parliamentary affairs), Phillip Marmo, to cool the issue in the House also appeared to flop, forcing Pinda to take the floor once again. But this time he decided not to beat around the bush any longer; in response to Slaa and Cheyos demands for full disclosure on the Meremeta, TANGOLD and Deep Green Finance projects, the premier curtly stated: No, we cant do that. Investigations by THISDAY have long established that Meremeta Gold was initially registered as a joint venture company owned on a 50-50 basis by the Tanzanian government and a private South African company called Trinnex (Pty) Limited. In 2005, Meremeta was liquidated and the BoT paid South Africas Nedbank a total of $118m to offset a loan given to the defunct company. After Meremeta went bankrupt, another company was registered in Mauritius, TANGOLD Limited, which took over all assets of the Meremeta company, including the Buhemba gold mine. Official documents show that TANGOLD was registered as an offshore company in Port Louis, Mauritius in April 2005, with at least five top government functionaries listed as company directors at the time of its registration. They included the then BoT governor, the late Daudi Ballali; the then attorney general, Andrew Chenge; the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Gray Mgonja; the then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Patrick Rutabanzibwa; and the then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Livestock Development, Vincent Mrisho. It has furthermore been established that the official constitution of this supposedly government-owned company has provisions that give its five registered directors - namely Ballali, Chenge, Mgonja, Rutabanzibwa and Mrisho - the right to transfer their shares to family members. According to a section in the TANGOLD constitution directly pertaining to family transactions: Any share may be transferred by a shareholder to, or to trustees for, the spouse, father, mother, child, grandchild, son-in-law or daughter-in-law of that shareholder; and any share of a deceased shareholder may be transferred by his executors or administrators to the spouse, father, mother, child, grandchild, son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the deceased shareholder. Although former energy and minerals minister Nazir Karamagi has had occasion to announce in parliament that TANGOLD was owned 100 per cent by the government, this company does not appear on the list of government-owned companies recorded with the Treasury registrar at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs.