Dar es Salaam. The stage has been set for a face off between the Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Paul Makonda and business tycoon Yusuph Manji over the latest list of people the administrator says are wanted for questioning in his self-declared war against drug use trading.
The billionaire businessman yesterday accused Mr Makonda of maligning his name and said he would sue the RC and anyone who linked his name with the illicit trade.
Mr Manji’s reaction was fast and furious as he sought to fight back on the day that Mr Makonda sent shock-waves across the country with the release of the names of 65 peoplehe said will be questioned in his crusade to rid the city of drug trafficking.
In the list that Makonda dropped at a press conference in his office yesterday were the names of prominent businessmen in the hospitality and entertainment industry, transport companies, shopping malls owners as well as well known politicians. He directed those mentioned to appear for interrogation at the Central Police Station tomorrow.
The naming of the influential people, among them the Leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament Freeman Mbowe elicited wide spread reaction on social media and was for the better part of the day the main topic in radio call-ins and talk show programmes.
Opinion was sharply divided over the turn that the RC’s war on drugs was taking, with Parliament later in the evening resolving that Mr Makonda be asked to write to the National Assembly to explain remarks that some MPs felt he ridiculed them. Makonda had suggested during his press conference that MPs who had accused him of being friends with drug barons who were bankrolling him were not serious but comical in their debate of the matter.
Other than Mr Manji, Mr Mbowe and the party that he leads, Chadema, the immediate former MP for Kinondoni Mr Idd Azan and a private company also spoke out on the fast developing saga that was kicked off by Makonda last week.
Scores of businessmen, among them the proprietor of popular radio station, EFM, and socialite Wema Sepetu are among people being held by the police following Makonda’s crackdown. At least 17 police officers have been suspended and these will also be investigated over reported links to the drugs syndicate.
The RC says those mentioned will help him in his war against trafficking and consumption of narcotics in Dar es Salaam. The RC has so far issued a list of nearly 200 people including drug abusers who have been charged and bonded out.
“I am aware the war on drugs is not an easy one and requires people who are strong hearted, people who are ready to sacrifice themselves for the victory of others,” he said.
Yesterday, however, Mr Makonda appeared to have touched raw nerves as Mr Manji vowed he would not be cowed into defending his right as he warned that he was ready to face off with Mr Makonda for what he termed was a smear campaign. He questioned the unorthodox means that the RC was using.
Mr Manji who is the chairman of Quality Group and the ruling party CCM’s Councillor for Mbagala Kuu said he would report at the Central Police Station today instead of tomorrow as directed by Makonda.
“I don’t want to waste time waiting until Friday, this is a war requiring urgency. Therefore I will see the police tomorrow morning. I will ask for evidence and the kind of assistance they expect from me before embarking on the plan to sue Makonda” he said at a press conference at Quality House.
He said principally, he wasn’t opposed to the RC’s crackdown rather he was against procedure used to name and summon him before law enforcers, protesting that his public reputation was at risk.
“He wasn’t supposed to use the media which professionals like the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) would use to disclose names of people under different stages of investigation. My decision thus aims at protecting my rights provided by the constitution. I am not scared to fight for my rights” he said.
Mr Manji said Mr Makonda had used his name to reap cheap popularity because today the public attention would be on him rather than the other 64 people named in the list.
Mbowe speaks out
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Chadema Secretary General Dr Vicent Mashinji condemned the naming of Mr Mbowe on the list, saying the move was aimed at injuring party leader’s reputation.
He also questioned the manner in which Mr Makonda was summoning senior leaders like Mbowe over a matter that could be done civilly.
“Mr Mbowe has a big reputation in Tanzania as he leads big institutions the main oppostion party Chadema, his private businesses and he is also a family man....so the attempt to smear him isn’t correct and fair,” he lamented.
When reached for comment, Mr Mbowe said he wasn’t aware over his involvement in the said matter and explained that he was in contact with his lawyers to decide what steps to take. He spoke while on his way to Dodoma for the ongoing Parliament session.
“Unfortunately, the country is not being governed properly. It is unfair to accuse a reputable person with drug trafficking without any shred of evidence,” he told The Citizen.
According to him, it was the duty of the authorities to verify the speculations before releasing any names to the public.
“I have many followers among families, friends and religious leaders.... I’m not sure if our leaders in government know what they are doing, this matter will end up injuring innocent people’s reputations,” said Mr Mbowe.
Former Kinondoni MP, Idd Azan, told The Citizen in a phone interview he would be in a position to comment after hearing from Mr Makonda and the police on Friday.
“I will act on the RC’s call and report to the police .....may be until then I will have something to say because as of now I don’t know what I have been called for,” said Mr Azan.
Separately, the Motisun Group of Companies issued a statement refuting involvement in any drug related business.
The group is the umbrella of Kiboko Company and M.M.I Steel Mill companies. The company’s deputy Managing Director Aboubakary Mlawa said the public should not confuse the business with any of the names suggested by Mr Makonda.
(Saumu Mwalimu, Deogratias Kamagi and Louis Kolumbia)