Dewji abduction raises serious security doubts

Saturday October 13 2018

Unidentified women wait to enter the home of

Unidentified women wait to enter the home of missing billionaire Mohamed Dewji (inset) at Oyster Bay in Dar es Salaam yesterday. The businessman was abducted on Thursday morning at Colloseum Hotel. PHOTO | SAID KHAMIS 

Dar es Salaam. The abduction of Africa’s youngest billionaire Mohammed Dewji on Thursday morning, raises serious security concerns and questions why such incidents recur despite authorities vowing to stop them.

Reports on the abduction of the influential businessman at Colloseum Hotel, Oyster Bay in Dar es Salaam, spread like bush fire on social media and in mainstream local and international media outlets.

His whereabouts remained unknown for the second day running yesterday, with the police reportedly holding 12 people for questioning over the incident that has shocked the nation.

The abduction has evoked sad memories of similar incidents that appear to be on the rise in recent times targeting politicians, rights activist, musicians and journalists.

Who are the abductors and what is the motive?

Like in the past incidents, the abduction of Mohammed Dewji poses one big question; Who are the individuals behind the abductions and what is their motive?

Although kidnapping and abductions are common worldwide, Tanzania had until recently not witnessed these brazen cases that now paint a negative image of the country as a haven of peace. World over, abductions are either due to politics, greed, corruption, religion, illiteracy, poverty and unemployment.

Can any of the above reasons be linked with the abduction of former Singida Urban MP and Simba Sports Club financier?

Politically, Mo, as he is commonly known had taken a low profile since 2015 when he did not vie for his former seat. He has sought to remain friendly with both the actors on the political stage, albeit behind the scene.

Most of the 43 year old time has been divided between looking after his business empire, enjoying sports and also serving the community through his Mo Foundation. He has been active on social media, posting both commercial religious teachings as well as motivational messages.

Can his silence be such politically powerful to harm his yet-to-be known opponents and warrant such a heinous act of abduction? This is a question that only time can tell.

As a business owner, Mo who presides over MeTL Group with over 40 subsidiaries operating in several African countries including Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Zambia and South Sudan, has amassed a huge fortune that makes him one of the best known business personalities around Africa.

He has made a fortune of over $1.5 billion through his businesses, dominating much of the consumer goods sector in the country to become the single largest private sector employer, accounting for up to 3.5 per cent of Tanzania’s economy.

While it is not known whether his kidnap has anything to do with his business empire, reports suggest MeTL was in authorities’ crosshairs in recent time over tax claims. The company was the biggest loser when the government suspended issuance of sugar import permits and when import for edible oil was slapped an additional 35 per cent duty.

The Daily Telegraph of UK yesterday reported that there has bee reported tensions between Mo and authorities over some of his businesses.

The newspaper claimed East Coast Oils and Fats was recently hit with a huge fine after being accused of import fraud. The subsidiary is an industry giant, accounting for 60 per cent of the edible oils market, and has revenue estimated at Pounds 3000 million (Sh900bn) a year.

The foreigners question?

On Thursday, Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone Commander Lazaro Mambosasa told reporters that Mo was abducted by two foreigners who drove a Toyota Surf while covering their faces with balaclavas.

However, in a conflicting statement, a Uber driver who claimed to have witnessed the abduction said four people arrived at the hotel in a small car and shot in the air to frighten security guards as they abducted the businessman.

While Mambosasa claimed Mo was taken from outside the hotel, the Uber driver said the abductors first entered the hotel and in no time came out with a man he identified as Mo.

Reports that the abductors were foreigners has sparked anxiety to establish what could be their motive and whether the businessman had any dealings with shadowy partners.

The ‘foreigner’s’ claim has also raised concern how they could get into the country and plan to kidnap its top most businessman and yet manage to vanish into thin air in an area that lives some of the country’s leaders and other VIPs.

“It is not easy for such criminals to enter the country and plan such an abduction with such impunity,” said a security expert who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity surrounding the ongoing investigations.

The expert said the confidence that has been exhibited by the abductors would suggest unpreparedness and unforgiveable incapability of security apparatus to prevent such attacks.

Question about CCTV camera

The puzzle around the use of CCTV footage to unravel the abduction has also left many unanswered questions as the Dar es Salaam police boss Mambosasa failed to explain why this particular security system may have not been deployed at the time of the incident. Did the abductors enjoy unfettered access to the scene of crime before the attack itself?

Mr Mambosasa’s response to questions on this matter clearly indicated the intrigues that might explain the nature of the people who plotted the raid.

Was Dewji targeted for months?

Reports suggest that Mo could have been on the target of the abductors for weeks if not months.

His driver of many years said during an interview with a local radio station that while he knew his boss as person who lived without fear of any enemies, he recently confessed to have received threats.

“He said where we are heading, we’ll need to be extra careful. I asked him why and he told me he had received threatening messages,” he said.

It is now up to the police to unravel this trend in abductions.