Buzwagi saga Minister Karamagi makes confession By Sunday Citizen Team Minister for Energy and Minerals Nazir Karamagi has officially admitted that he deleted from the proposed Buzwagi mining contract, a clause on the East African Customs Management just few minutes before signing the controversial contract in London in February this year. Speaking to the Sunday Citizen earlier this week, Karamagi said he made the changes as the Clause wouldn't be applicable, since the mining sector doesn't fall within the East African Customs Management. The minister said that each East African state has a special licence to choose a sector in which special incentives can be offered. For Tanzania, the mining industry falls within this special arrangement. But hadn't a team of experts from his own ministry included the Clause in the document? "The Commissioner of Mining is the right person to explain this," Karamagi responded. The minister denied any wrongdoing in his action or the signing of the contract. However, his signing of the Buzwagi deal has caused heated debate inside and outside Parliament in recent months, with the Opposition parties and civil society calling for an independent Parliamentary commission of inquiry into the signing of the contract. According to the Buzwagi contract, the deleted clause in Article 4.2 of the agreement obliged the investor to pay to the government taxes and other fiscal obligation under the East Africa Customs Union. With its exclusion, the country will lose out significant revenue. Disturbing to observers is the fact that the Buzwagi contract was signed at a time when the government was in the process of reviewing previous mining contracts in order to create what the Head of State termed a' win- win' situation. However, when asked again to clarify why his experts didn't think that the Clause was not applicable, thus including it in the contract, Karamagi was not able to provide any tangible reasons, instead he directed the Sunday Citizen to the Commissioner for Minerals again, insisting that it was the commissioner who is responsible for legal affairs. Commissioner for Minerals Dr Peter Kafumu said the minister's move to delete the Clause aimed at protecting Tanzania's lucrative mining industry, which has key place in the national economy. According to Dr Kafumu, the EA Customs Management Act allows each of the East African countries to have their own incentives in a particular sector and for Tanzania, the mining sector is the one that has been picked to enjoy the special incentives. The Commissioner said it was true that the original contract drafted by a team of experts from the Ministry of Energy and Minerals in Dar es Salaam included the East African Customs Management Act of 2004, but insisted that the clause was not necessary. According to Dr Kafumu the experts, who are versed with rules, added the Clause through an oversight. Asked to explain how experts could have overlooked such a crucial clause, the commissioner insisted: "This clause was not included intentionally." Why then didn't the minister inform the Parliament about his decisions to delete the clause? Dr Kafumu said his boss was confident that no one would lay their hands on the contract, since it is a confidential document only accessible to the government and investors. "It is illegal to posses any government document especially one bearing confidential stamp, but I am personally surprised to hear that some people have managed to access the contract!" he remarked. Targeting whistle blowers The commissioner said his ministry is working hard to establish the person behind the leakages of contracts at the ministry as a handful of contracts have reached the media as of recent, including the Buzwagi one. He said his ministry is working hard to nab those behind the leakages, adding that once identified, they would not only lose their jobs, but will also face legal action. He said other contracts that leaked to the media last year were the Richmond contract and Alex Stewart contract, which ‘caused confusion within the ministry.' Tundu Lissu, a prominent lawyer and a critic of mining industry told the Sunday Citizen: "The government has been trying to misuse the National Security Act of 1971 to protect even things which are not top secrets." Lissu, who was the first person to admit he was in possession of the Buzwagi contract early this week during the talk show hosted by Jenerali Ulimwengu, clarified: "This contract can't be a top secret document because it has nothing to do with national security or the country's military." He added: "Being in possession of this document can't be a criminal offence because it is a matter of public interest in that the general public has the right to know what its government is offering investors as stated by the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania." According to Lissu, any law that contradicts the National Constitution, which is the cornerstone of all laws in this country, is nullified. "The government should not issue threats to whistle blowers who have enabled the nation to access the controversial contracts… they should protect whistle blowers instead of threatening to sue them were they to be identified or revealed," Lissu said. A high-ranking source within the State House told the Sunday Citizen this week that he was shocked to read the contents of the Buzwagi contract in the local press this week. "These are very serious allegations. When I read the newspapers my first instinct was that what the reports were untrue, but now you are telling me that the minister has admitted to deleting the Clause!" remarked the source. He declined to be named, citing the sensitivity of his position in the government, but he admitted that following the leakage of the Buzwagi contract, there are now several questions Karamagi has to answer regarding the credibility of the contract. He said the message to the public now is that Parliament declined to form a probe commission as demanded by the Opposition MPs because of the abnormalities in the contract. The source further added that all the other major mining contracts were signed before the introduction of East African Customs Union, so the Clause deleted was not applicable to them. But he said Buzwagi should have fallen within the East African Customs Management Act because it was signed after law came into force.