Tanzania: British Duo Flee Moshi After Death Threats


JF-Expert Member
Sep 30, 2007
[Tanzania: British Duo Flee Moshi After Death Threats

The East African (Nairobi)
3 March 2008

Two British investors have fled Moshi in northern Tanzania after receiving persistent death threats in the wake of an invasion of their multimillion shilling Silverdale Farm by a large herd of cattle that caused massive destruction to property.

Last week, the 500-acre farm was invaded and all workers evicted. Stewart Middleton and Sarah Hermitage - who have been locked in a protracted battle for control of the 550-acre farm with their local partner, Benjamin Mengi - said they had been feeling more and more vulnerable after a court in Moshi last month sent four of their senior managers to prison for six months.

Tanzania nationals Abel Ngoja, Marcel Kavise and Swaleh Rubaji had been arraigned before a Moshi magistrate to answer charges of assaulting a group of people who had invaded the farm last year.

Their predicament was ironical. Several months ago, they had arrested a group of intruders who had invaded the farm and taken them to the police. But in a strange twist, they are the ones who ended up being arrested and jailed.

In a telephone conversation with The EastAfrican from their temporary hideout at a location near Arusha town two weeks ago, Ms Hermitage described the invasion as vicious, saying that property worth millions of dollars had been destroyed - including 10 acres of French beans that were ripe and ready for export.

"We have lost the farm. In the end, the threats to our lives, the imprisonment of our staff was placing everyone at risk. The farm is destroyed and has now been invaded by intruders. Our aim now is to secure the release of our men. We accept that we have lost everything," said Ms Hermitage.

She added: "We are being sensible, but I have to say I am scared now. It is not safe to walk on the farm. There is nothing left of our operation. Everything has been stolen from the farm including the tin roofs from the field toilets... Incredibly, we were granted a right to see our men in prison. To see these fine Tanzanians walking in filth and mud and crouching before us like criminals was enough to break the strongest of spirits."

What began as a dispute between partners has evolved into a major row that now threatens diplomatic relations between Tanzania and the United Kingdom.
Last week, a British MP, Roger Gale, laid a White Paper before the UK Parliament asking for the suspension of all aid to Tanzania until a solution to the matter is found.

"My constituents have lost their investment, lives have been placed in danger and, most important of all, innocent people have been imprisoned," he said.
Mr Gale recounted how, between 2000 and 2004, the Silverdale farm in Moshi was owned by Benjamin Mengi, whose brother is the Tanzanian media magnate Reginald Mengi.

On May 20, 2004, the lease to the Silverdale and Mbono farms was assigned by Mengi's company - Fiona (Tanzania) Ltd - to Silverdale Tanzania for a consideration of $112,000.

"The money was paid in agreed instalments and formally receipted," Mr Middleton noted, adding that Mr Mengi retained a 30 per cent shareholding with the British nationals acquiring 70 per cent.

According to Mr Gale, signs of trouble began to show in January 2005 when Benjamin Mengi, having sold the lease once, sought to sell it for a second time to a neighbouring farmer, Konrad Legg.

In April 2005, Mr Mengi applied to the courts to have the investors, Stewart Middleton and Sarah Hermitage, evicted.
In June 2005, Mr Middleton opened police charges against Mr Mengi for forgery and conspiracy to murder. The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs was informed but the allegations were never investigated.

In August 2005, Mr Middleton and his Tanzanian manager were arrested on the streets of Moshi by armed police and taken before magistrates on complaints made by Mr Mengi. The charges, which do not exist under the penal code of Tanzania, were dropped, and Mr Middleton was released. No apology was ever offered by the Tanzanian government.

Representations were made to President Jakaya Kikwete in January 2007 by the then foreign secretary Margaret Beckett and Cherie Booth, QC, wife of former UK prime minister Tony Blair.

She raised the issue with Justice Minister Mary Nagu in February 2007.
Mr Gale told the House that in spite of the Herculean efforts of British High Commissioner Philip Parham, a three-year campaign of threats and harassment has been waged against the British nationals.

He alleged that Mr Mengi, backed by local police officials, has been allowed to drive lawful investors from Tanzania in fear for their lives and for the lives of the honest, decent and hard-working Tanzanians whose livelihoods they have fought to protect.

He argued that the case of the two British nationals was just one example of how Tanzania had mistreated British investors, citing the cases of Biwater, which was awarded a 10-year lease contract to manage the water and sewerage contract for the Dar es Salaam area.

"City Water's assets were seized and on June 1 three Biwater executives of City Water were summarily deported by the government of Tanzania," said the MP.

Responding on the government's behalf, Meg Munn, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said the government shared the concerns of the MP about the events that have unfolded there during the past three years or so.
She said that Stewart Middleton and Sarah Hermitage invested in the farm in good faith, and they have suffered serious harassment in various ways.

She added that since their initial investment in 2004, they and their staff have been forced to defend themselves from many criminal and civil lawsuits.
"Mr Middleton has been arrested, as have the couple's staff. Several lawsuits remain outstanding, and have been for long periods," she added.

Ms Munn noted that the British High Commission, particularly successive High Commissioners Dr Andrew Pocock and Philip Parham, have been and remain actively engaged with the case.

"They have provided a lot of support to Mr Middleton and Ms Hermitage, and have intervened many times and lobbied the Tanzanian Government on the couple's behalf," Ms Munn added, pointing out that the engagement has helped to bring the situation back from the brink on several occasions.

She disclosed that British ministers have also pursued the case at the highest levels, most recently when Lord Mark Malloch-Brown raised it with President Kikwete earlier this month during the African Union summit.

As a result of those interventions, she added, there were signs of potentially helpful movement from senior members of the Tanzanian Government.
"The Chief Justice is actively engaged, and has offered to mediate between the two parties in the hope of bringing the case to a just conclusion," she added.

Turning to the Silverdale farm case, the British minister said the controversy was an example of why it is difficult to invest in Tanzania.

"It demonstrates the constraints on both the capacity and the integrity of the legal sector, which the Tanzanian authorities recognise and are trying to rectify," she noted pointing out that the British government will continue to be engaged on the case with the aim of bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion.

Hili tambala (habari) linatisha ile mbaya. Kwanini hatujahawahi kulisikia, au ni mimi?
Hili tambala (habari) linatisha ile mbaya. Kwanini hatujahawahi kulisikia, au ni mimi?

"Mr Gale recounted how, between 2000 and 2004, the Silverdale farm in Moshi was owned by Benjamin Mengi, whose brother is the Tanzanian media magnate Reginald Mengi."
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