MP wants UK to withhold Tanzania budget support By WILFRED EDWIN THE EAST AFRICAN Tanzania is heading for a diplomatic tiff with the United Kingdom if a motion to block budget support to Tanzania passes through the British parliament. House of Commons Conservative MP Roger Gale wants the UK government to withhold part of its promised £105 million ($212 million) support to the 2007/2008 Tanzania national budget. The motion has been triggered by what the lawmaker describes as unfair treatment of two British investors in Silverdale Farm in Tanzania. The issue involves a dispute over the lease to Silverdale and Mbono Farms pitting the two British investors, Stewart Middleton and Sarah Hermitage, who have set up a business in the northern town of Moshi, against a local businessman, hotelier Benjamin Mengi (brother of IPP media mogul Reginald Mengi), who assigned them the lease in 2004. The lease has yet to be registered, and Mr Middleton has been arrested several times. The investors were also sued for libel on the basis of the newspaper article and judgement given to Mengi for $100,000 for defamation. The whole saga has become cause celebre in the international media. Another issue raised by Mr Gale is the Tanzania governments inability to curb corruption, even though Britain has been touting the country as a shining example of African development. Mr Gale, MP for North Thanet, told The EastAfrican on Wednesday last week in a telephone interview from London that he was concerned that his government has failed to take Tanzania to task over the issue of mistreatment of British investors. Mr Gale added that the failure of the Tanzanian government to resolve such issues erodes investor confidence. Im seriously concerned with my governments continuing support for Tanzania, he said, adding that he has on three occasions contacted the Tanzanian High Commissioner to Britain, Phillip Parham, to discuss the issue. The MP said he had received a letter from Mark Malloch-Brown, the State Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for Africa, Asia and the UN, on the subject but did not disclose the contents of the letter. Mr Gale, who is Ms Hermitages MP, has been calling for the British government to act on the case since 2006. However, it appears that the Tanzanian government is content to let the judicial system take its course. Patrick Mombo, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, told The EastAfrican in Dar es Salaam last week that Tanzania believes in good governance, and as such, would like to see the judiciary make decisions free from any interference. Mr Mombo said that the Tanzanian legal system was capable of handling the issue. Meanwhile, reliable sources in Westminster hinted that Mr Gales motion has not been internally discussed yet, and that there are currently no plans to cut back the Tanzanian aid package. John Bradshaw, political and press officer at the British High Commission in Dar es Salaam, told The EastAfrican that although there is pressure from politicians to withhold part of the development funds for Tanzania, the government has not made any decision in that direction. But Mr Bradshaw cautioned that, as is the case with all UK development assistance, his government regularly reviews the aid programme to Tanzania and takes account of all aspects of the countrys performance and prospects for reducing poverty. The experiences of investors, including cases such as this, are considered as part of those reviews. But the most important consideration is whether we believe our assistance will effectively reduce poverty, he said. According to Mr Bradshaw, the British High Commission in Tanzania has been in frequent contact with the British investors and continues to liaise with the Tanzanian government at the highest levels over the problems experienced by the two in developing their investment. The High Commission hopes the Tanzanian authorities will ensure that these problems and all related matters are expeditiously and fairly resolved, Mr Bradshaw noted. An estimated 6,000 UK nationals live and work in Tanzania. For a long time now, Britain has been one of Tanzanias leading trading partners and one of the largest foreign direct investors in the country. UK companies have invested about £230 million ($322 million) in Tanzania over the past 11 years, mainly in the agricultural and tourist sectors. The leading UK investors are CDC, BP, Standard Chartered, Barclays, Unilever and Mott MacDonald. UK exports to Tanzania were worth £71 million ($99.4 million) in 2005. Tanzanian exports to the UK were worth over £36 million ($50.4 million) in the same period.