Sacking of Kidata fuels speculation

Saturday November 10 2018


Dar es Salaam. The sudden sacking of Tanzania’s high commissioner to Canada, Alphayo Kidata, and the stripping of his honorary diplomatic title has elicited debate regarding what may have led to the drastic action taken against him.

A brief statement issued on Thursday said President John Magufuli had both dismissed Mr Kidata as Tanzania’s high commissioner to Canada and also stripped him of his diplomatic status with effect from November 5th. No reason was given for the sacking, opening room for speculations as to what might have befell Mr Kidata and led to his fall from grace.

Social media charter rooms were awash with debate on his predicament, with users, who view the former Permanent Secretary as a civil servant who had so far kept a clean record, hinting to the possibility that his ordeal could have arisen from differences in principle with his boss. Others speculated that he might have been implicated in some previously unknown credibility issues. This, they said, will only be determined should the ex-envoy be charged in court upon his return to the country.

And yet others were building their theories around Kidata’s docket in Canada.

Tanzania and Canada enjoy cordial diplomatic relations. Canada is both a major trade partner and significant donor to Tanzania. Canadian companies have invested heavily in Tanzania. But the North American country could be a tricky outpost for any Tanzanian envoy to operate because of recent developments that have seen the Tanzanian government getting involved in long-drawn court battles and tax disputes running into hundreds of billions of US Dollars.

The nastiest court battle yet was the one filed by Stirling Civil Engineering Limited and which led to the attachment of Tanzania’s Bombardier jet until the government paid an undisclosed amount of money to the construction company to secure its release.

The government has placed orders for two more Bombardier jets whose scheduled arrival has however passed. Government’s spokesperson Dr Hassan Abbasi said earlier this week that the arrival date has been pushed to December. The reasons for the delay were not readily disclosed.

Another issue with Canada-based companies revolve around a $190 billion tax dispute between the Tanzanian government and Barrick Gold. Protracted negotiations were conducted between the two parties in Dar es Salaam last year but the issue is yet to be wholly resolved.

How these issues may have played into Kidata’s sacking is difficult to tell or ascertain but any Tanzanian envoy to Canada would be expected to play a key diplomatic role to resolve any outstanding issues revolving around the disputes.

Some commentators pointed out that Kidata could be the first of other impending falls of Tanzanian diplomats abroad who fail to perform as required if recent pronouncements by President John Magufuli is anything to go by.

Dr Magufuli has directed the ministry of foreign affairs to dismiss or recall underperforming Ambassadors.

Any speculation is hot air

Some commentators who spoke to The Citizen said much of the speculation as to why Mr Kidata has been sacked were hot air because the President has prerogatives to hire and fire.

“It is normal for the Head of State to revoke any appointment,” University of Dar es Salaam political sciences lecturer Dr Benson Bana noted. He added that it was highly probable that the reasons would be given as to why Kidata’s diplomatic status had to be revoked.

Retired Tanzania’s Ambassador to South Africa Ami Mpungwe said it was useless for people to read too much into what has happened to Mr Kidata. “I have served the country for over 19 years as a diplomat, and I don’t see any problem with the fact that the President can revoke an appointment. It is so normal,” he said.

But former Tanzania’s ambassador to India, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, Dr Ahmed Kiwanuka, said the stripping Kidata of his diplomatic status is evidence that he has done something wrong that has annoyed the President.

“We are human beings, we sometimes make mistakes that annoy our bosses, but, again, it is a normal thing for a public figure to be removed from office,” he said.

He added; “The President has mandate under the Constitution to appoint diplomats, he also has the mandate to annul their appointments if he isn’t satisfied with the way the particular diplomat is serving the country.”

“It is not the end of his life, he (Kidata) can now engage in farming, or any productive activity, and life will go on,” he said.