MPs quiz govt over Meremeta gold firm: Say contradictory statements from ministers raise more questions than answers THISDAY REPORTER Dodoma THE opposition camp in Parliament yesterday questioned the government over what it described as contradictions in the official statements of cabinet ministers in the National Assembly regarding the controversial Meremeta Gold Mine Company Limited. The now defunct gold firm was the beneficiary of more than $100m paid by the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) to offset a huge loan from a South African bank. The Shadow Minister for Energy and Minerals, Mohamed Habib Mnyaa (Mkanyageni - CUF), said in Parliament yesterday that Finance Minister Ms Zakia Meghji and her Energy and Minerals counterpart Nazir Karamagi had made contradicting statements with regard to Meremeta. Quoting official parliamentary hansard records, Mnyaa noted that while Ms Meghji told the House that the Meremeta gold project was in the final process of winding up, Karamagi later declared before the same House that the government had bought 100 per cent of the companys shares. Reading the opposition camps rejoinder to the 2007/08 budget proposals of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, the MP asked the government to explain the contradictions and come clean on the deal. These contradicting government statements are worrisome...if the government has indeed bought the company (Meremeta), then we should be told who were the original owners and why was the gold mine under the control of the TPDF (Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces)?z he queried. He added: These are the questions that still remain unanswered and have caused grumblings and protests among Tanzanians through the governments failure to give direct answers. Before being liquidated, Meremeta Gold Mine was registered as a joint venture company owned on a 50-50 basis by the Tanzanian government and a private company called Trinnex (Pty) Limited. Investigations by THISDAY have already established that the Bank of Tanzania made dubious payments of over $118m (approx. 150bn/-) to a foreign bank to liquidate a loan issued to the company. According to our sources, the central bank made the suspect payments to South Africas Nedbank through the New York-based HSB Bank, after the company filed for bankruptcy. It has been further revealed that BoT paid an additional $13.34m (approx. 17bn/-) to another bank account under the name of TANGOLD, at the National Bank of Commerce Limited Corporate Branch in Dar es Salaam. According to Karamagi, assets and liabilities of Meremeta Gold Mine - including the Buhemba Gold Mine in Mara Region - were transferred to TANGOLD, a new company wholly owned by the government. Government sources say that BoT purchased a controversial 155bn/- Treasury bond and later exchanged the amount for US dollar currency, which was used to effect the suspect payments to Meremeta and TANGOLD. It remains unclear why the government through the central bank - decided to clear the loan on behalf of Meremeta Gold Mine Co. Ltd after it became bankrupt, instead of Nedbank filing its claim directly to the liquidator. On the mining sector in general, Mnyaa said a recent gold audit report by Alex Stewart Assayers had uncovered massive cheating by mining firms in the country to the tune of billions of US dollars. He sought explanations from the government on progress made thus far in the presidential-sanctioned review of all controversial mining contracts. Regarding tanzanite mining activities in Arusha Region, Mnyaa said it was a national shame that the country continues to earn meagre revenues from export sales of a valuable gemstone that is uniquely Tanzanian. He quoted 2005 global export figures showing that out of total annual sales figures for tanzanite gemstones amounting to $400m, Tanzania received a mere $16m.