Monday, October 29, 2007

Exporters of electric poles planning legal action on Maghembe

Natural Resources and Tourism minister Jumanne Maghembe

Tanzanian traders dealing in the export of electric poles in Mufindi District have threatened to sue Natural Resources and Tourism minister Jumanne Maghembe for allegedly issuing contradictory directives that have disrupted their businesses.

They have also made public their intention to seek President Jakaya Kikwete�s intervention on the matter, should that become necessary.

The development follows two recent statements issued by the minister, one effectively banning the exportation of the poles and the other appearing to reverse the position.

Initially, according to the dealers, the minister imposed a ban on the exportation of the item but a few days ago he issued another statement saying he had not imposed any such restriction after all.

`We suffered huge losses as a consequence of the contradictory government statements,` complained John Kalinga, one of the dealers.

It is reported that the dealers received the government restraining order through Sao Hill forest authorities, after which the traders officially wrote the minister a letter seeking clarification but without getting any response.

Three weeks later, according to Kalinga, the minister came up with another statement to the effect that the government had not restricted the exportation of electric poles.

`We find this unfair and unacceptable. The inspection, registration and issuance of licences for the exportation of consignments of electric poles have been halted for weeks now following minister Maghembe`s directive. We have already incurred heavy losses in between,` explained Kalinga.

Sources have told The Guardian that the inspection, registration and issuance of the said licenses are conducted by a consultant known as Timber and Pools Grader but this has not been confirmed.

The dealers say the government has been issuing permits to some traders to harvest trees in the Sao Hill forest for electric poles with the earlier ban still operational.

`These are not logs; they are not even timber. They are simple electric poles. Denying us permission to harvest and export products of this nature is completely unfair,` observed another dealer.

According to the recent reports, more than 100 trucks loaded with electric poles are still stranded in the Iringa municipality after being intercepted by the government authorities out to implement the minister`s first directive.

Sources say officials of the Mafinga-based Sao Hill forest halted the exportation of electric poles after receiving verbal instructions from headquarters of the Forest Department in Prof Maghembe`s ministry in Dar es Salaam.

This is now understood to have impacted negatively on current contracts between the government and the dealers on the export of electric poles.

`As we speak, several ships stand docked at the Dar es Salaam port waiting for electric poles to ferry to various foreign destinations. If the minister now says he has never issued an order banning the export of electric poles, who then issued then directive on his behalf?

The minister should speak up to clear the air,` noted another trader.

The dealers have called for President Kikwete`s intervention, saying that would help local investors who had responded to repeated government calls asking interested Tanzanians to come forward and invest in the country�s social and economic sectors.

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