Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Seminar on the American Foreign Policy in Africa

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What is Magufuli hiding about Acacia?

What is Magufuli hiding about Acacia?

Chambi Chachage

The government of Tanzania is about to start negotiations with Barrick Gold Corporation. With a stake of 63.9 per cent in Acacia Mining PLC, the stakes are high for the Canadian multinational. In March 2017 President Magufuli suspended the shipping of concentrates and subsequently ordered the impounding of its local subsidiary’s export-bound containers.

In line with the ‘Art of War’, the President has publicly taken an offensive approach. This is hardly a strategy of someone who is willing to compromise unless he is bluffing. “I was not crazy”, he recently reiterated in a rally, “when I impounded the containers of...big shots.” They “say it is ‘sand’, he further pointed a finger to them, “but transport it with police escort…there are more than 12 minerals there…they just take.” Isn’t this smuggling? 

Playing it safe legally, on 4 July 2017 Acacia announced that Notices of Arbitration were served in Tanzania. Doing so at that time, its press release insists, was necessary to protect it. However, it further noted, “Acacia remains of the view that a negotiated resolution is the preferable outcome to the current disputes and the Company will continue to work to achieve this.”

Such an affirmation from a company that unequivocally dismisses the two presidential reports seems contradictory when one reads its following take on the negotiations that are about to take place:

What these statements mean in their totality is that Acacia is not ready to meet us halfway. Doing so would imply that the President and his committees are right, albeit partially. It would entail that they would have to comply with his demands to bring back our money or minerals.

Casting doubts on the presidential reports is thus one way of dealing with all this. International tax experts have joined the fray. For instance, Maya Forstater and Alexandra Readhead have published an article on ‘A brutal lesson for multinationals: golden tax deals can come back and bite you.’ Therein they inform us that there “are several reasons why the findings of President Magufuli’s committees are hard to believe.” Yet they cite Acacia’s statistics and arguments on why they are confident the two professors got it all wrong as the first reason.

Probably what is more puzzling is that after doing so they present this rhetorical argument that draws heavily from Acacia’s self-defense regarding its integrity and compliance:

How does the reaction of shareholders lead these experts to conclude that the “committees’ findings are implausible”? Why did the Executive Chairman of Barrick, Professor John L. Thornton fly all the way to the Julius Nyerere International Airport if this was simply a matter of setting the records straight since our very own professors missed the mark glaringly? The official website of Barrick informs us that at “present, Mr. Thornton holds 2.4 million Barrick common shares, roughly 65 percent of which have been purchased using personal funds (not associated with incentive compensation).” So, how did they measure his reaction?

Nevertheless, some of our own leading experts find their analysis compelling. This is worrying given that they should also read it with the same healthy dose of skepticism that they used when reading the report summaries of the presidential committees. One would expect them to underscore that the article that has been gaining traction since it was published in the prestigious British daily, The Guardian, hardly engage with other Tanzanian sources.

By simply asserting that the Tanzanian President is “accusing the company not only of striking an unbalanced deal but of massively under-reporting its gold exports to evade tax,” the article is missing or dismissing a key argument. Smuggling. When its writers opt to insinuate that “Acacia may not have stolen billions of dollars worth of minerals” without engaging with the possibility of smuggling, they are bypassing a wealth of clues and cues out there.

Let us recall that Professor Osoro’s summary uses the Kiswahili word “magendo”, which means ‘contraband’, when describing the disappearance of containers. The summary does not only provide the shipping number of containers that were shipped without trace, but also the dates of shipping. In total, they were 43 containers that were not accounted for in one year alone. 

Does one need an independent committee to even verify this? How many presidential committees since the times of Mwalimu Nyerere were subjected to such verification? As a friend asked, rhetorically,  why is it so easy for us to trust researchers other than our own?

One may, by way of proxy, revisit the Controller and Auditor General’s (CAG) reports on the Tanzania Port Authority(TPA) and Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS) to get a glimpse of why it easy for companies to collude to smuggle stuff inside or outside our country. “We noted”, CAG stated on 28 March 2016, “that TPA does not have controls to monitor total number of containers handled at TICTS.” Why? Because “TPA only relies on information received from TICTS and does not reconcile this with the actual number of containers handled by TICTS.” Moreover:

Fast-forwarding to 27 March 2017, one notes CAG reiterating that TPA should collect data from TANCIS showing all containers handled at TICTS and reconcile this information with actual containers received at TICTS.” Now, if such was the state of importation, why should we expect that the conditions for exportation did not have a room for smuggling our minerals? 

Reducing the issue to tax deals or evasion can thus be misleading. “We have tax experts – good ones”, President Magufuli indeed points out. “But”, he firmly stresses, “they were just allowing the containers to be carried away after being given a bit of money.”

Maybe the President should just share the committees’ reports publicly in their entirety.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Farewell Champion of The African Imagination

Fare Thee Well Champion of the African Imagination: 
F. Abiola Irele (1936-2017)

By Chambi Chachage

"In its polemical stance, then, African discourse presents itself as a thorough-going deconstruction of the Western image of the Native, the Black, the African" - Abiola Irele on 'The African Imagination'

The African literary community has lost one of its illustrious sons, F. Abiola Irele. It is Harry Garuba who introduced me to his work when I was a student at the University of Cape Town (UCT). He asked us to unpack a quote from Irele's book on 'The African Imagination: Literature in Africa and the Black Diaspora.'

I did not understand it. But after reading its chapter on the 'Dimensions of African Discourse' it became clear. The underlying message that proved to be Irele's lifelong mission is that the striking - and indeed primary - aspect of our discourse as Africans has been its "character as a movement of contestation" (p. 68 ) Borrowing from Samora Machel, one may ask: 'Contra o Que?' (Against What?)

For Irele, it has been against "the negativizing premises of Western racist ideology" (p. 69) He was writing in 2001, way before 'Black Lives Matter' reminded us that the 'West' has not yet become post-racial let alone post-racist. "In whatever accents African response has been given expression", he aptly noted then, "whether in an openly combative form or a discreetly pathetic one - with gradations in between - the discursive project has taken the form of an ongoing, principled dispute with the West over the terms of African/Black existence and, ultimately, being" (Ibid.)
My personal encounter with Irele had been brief, albeit profound. I first met him in a graduate summer school where he received harsh criticisms from some students for what appeared to them as an 'essentialist' stand on - and exposition of - the 'African/Black condition'. For him, the explanation was straightforward: They were invoking 'postmodernism' with its 'relativism' that borders 'absurdity'. With what is continuing to happen to the 'African/Black body' in the 'reactionary West', I wonder what they think now of Irele's take on the 'stark realities of the Black experience" (Ibid.)

Pan-Africanism is essential in this struggle. When he moved back to Ilorin in Nigeria to run the College of Humanities at Kwara State University as a Provost, he wrote: "Can you please send me the curriculum of your course on Pan African Thought? We want to see if we can use it as a model for a course on Panafricanism here at Kwara State in Nigeria." He was referring to a new course that the Mwalimu Nyerere Professorial Chair in Pan-African Studies had introduced at the University of Dar es Salaam in 2011. "Thanks", he promptly responded after receiving the course outline, "for your offer to help with our curriculum at Kwara State University."

He was as generous as he was grateful. "Glad to hear you're writing on Negritude and citing my work", he once wrote to me before poetically answering my otherwise simple question about his bio: "My year of birth is 1936, the month and day May 22." 
Irele was not an essentialist. But he knew that the 'West' has been attempting  to 'essentialize' us.  Hence African Discourse, "though not by means uniform, univocal, or homogenous, is nonetheless coherent, centered as it is upon a dominant issue: our historic encounter with and continuing relationship to the West and the varied implications of our modern experience as it has been determined by this historical encounter” (p. 68).

His point is: The African Imagination needed an essentially unified discourse of resistance to articulate our "sense of historical grievances" (p. 69). Do we still need this now? Yes, indeed!

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