Cardinal Pengo in war-cry against corrupt politicians: `I would rather die than allow this country to be completely destroyed by corruption...` THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Tanzania, Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, yesterday stated that he was ready to sacrifice his own life in the fight against high-level political corruption in government and other institutions of power, rather than allow the country to be destroyed by sleaze. Cardinal Pengo, one of the most prominent religious leaders in the country, said he remains deeply concerned over the continued use of legislated powers by various government officials for illegitimate private gain. ''I would rather die than allow this country to be completely destroyed (by corruption),'' he told a large Sunday mass congregation at Saint Joseph's cathedral in Dar es Salaam. He pledged that the Catholic church in Tanzania will continue to oppose corrupt politicians and top civil servants who insist on using public office for their own personal financial benefits. Emphasizing that the church will speak out against any corrupt public leader regardless of his or her religious affiliation, Pengo said: ''As things stand, there are corrupt leaders from all religions and faiths. We cannot tolerate them - we will continue to push for clean and ethical leaders who are not motivated by greed or the amassing of vast personal wealth.'' He also vehemently dismissed what he described as spreading rumours that the Roman Catholic Church is grooming its own presidential candidate to challenge incumbent President Jakaya Kikwete in the upcoming 2010 general election. ''To say that Pengo wants to remove President Kikwete from power and replace him with another leader from within the Roman Catholic faith...is just plain lies,'' he said. The cardinal asserted that while the Catholic church has no intention of meddling in the affairs of politicians, it is adamant on the issue of corrupt public leaders being unwanted in society. He said the church is ready to support any political candidate from any religion, provided that such a candidate is morally upright, demonstrates true love for his/her country, and is suitably passionate about serving the people. ''On the other hand, the church will not sit back and just allow for corrupt politicians from any religion to be elected to public office,'' added Pengo. Only a few weeks ago, members of various local civil society organisations issued a joint statement declaring that grand corruption has reached dangerous levels in Tanzania, leading to the ''capture of the state.'' ''Stories of syndicated grand corruption in the country are horrifying, and force us to draw one solid conclusion - that the Tanzania state has been hijacked,'' the CSOs coalition asserted, noting that a few powerful persons in the private sector were now influencing major government decisions, policies, and regulations. 'Capture of the state' is recognised at international scholarly level as a most destructive and intractable corruption problem, particularly in transition economies with incomplete or distorted processes of democratic consolidation and insecure property rights. In their statement, the CSOs cited various scandals that highlight ''the mushrooming of grand corruption and state hijacking operations in Tanzania,'' including the Buzwagi and other mining sector projects, plus the Richmond and IPTL power generation sagas. Others they mentioned were the National Bank of Commerce (NBC), Kiwira Coal Mine, Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL), Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS), and Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC) privatization contracts. Also the Bank of Tanzania's Twin Towers construction project, external payment arrears (EPA) account looting with specific reference to Kagoda Agricultural Limited, Commodity Import Support (CIS) fund, and Debt Conversion Programme (DCP). Further scandals catalogued by the CSOs included the military radar deal, presidential jet purchase, TANGOLD, Meremeta, and Deep Green. The CSOs demanded ''indiscriminate and immediate'' government action to prosecute all people suspected of involvement in these and other grand corruption cases.