OPINION: Amnesty on economic crimes is a good idea, but…

Thursday October 17 2019

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji 

I whole-heartedly commend, congratulate and support President John Magufuli for his creative initiative to grant amnesty to those who are behind bars for economic sabotage crimes.

After all, the nation was not benefitting, there were zero gains and there was indeed a lot of suffering and built up of antagonism.

It takes a lot of courage and a big heart to undertake such an initiative and this will go in our history and for a very long time as an exemplary initiative. I know that law and judiciary are very complex and there will be experts in this field who will rightly forward constructive criticisms but I will always support the greater cause.

Whatever benefits the nation and the majority should be supported.

A pardon is a government decision to allow a person to be absolved of guilt for an alleged crime or other legal offense, as if the act never occurred.

The pardon may be granted before or after conviction for the crime, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction.


Pardons have been granted in many countries when individuals are deemed to have demonstrated that they have “paid their debt to society”, or are otherwise considered to be deserving of them.

Poverty is the most prominent barrier to sustainable development and when it is coupled with corruption it is a fatal recipe. Corruption initiates the vicious cycle of poverty and underdevelopment.

There is a direct link between underdevelopment and corruption. The former encourages the latter.

For Tanzania to develop it needs its own generated funds from local resources to address the major barriers of development.

We need money to address issues of deforestation, urban development, effects of climate change on environment, improve infrastructure, and provide quality social services and a number of other variables like affordable energy etc.

Achieving sustainable development takes a gradual not magical process, it needs an honest leader who has to think out of the box, discard business as usual attitude.

I have not seen pardons for development purposes, that’s why I submit that in our case it is a very creative idea. If the money was acquired unethically and where the law of the land was compromised, the acquired wealth factually belongs to the people.

Now if this wealth is repossessed and put to good use like building the infrastructure etc. this is indeed a positive step. I have a feeling that the majority of Tanzanians are supporting this initiative. However I have two very pertinent observations to share with the readers.

First, these crimes were not performed singularly, I believe that civil servants were involved to facilitate the crime and were part of the team and they received their fair share of the loot.

The involved civil servants are equally criminals and some maybe are in high positions in the current government, they should be behind bars but largely this is not the case. Why?

If every case is analyzed in detail, names of civil servants will be mentioned, they maybe from either TRA, police force, judiciary, procurement, entry ports etc. These names should be followed up even if the civil servant is currently retired.

We are losing billions that should rightly be repossessed from civil servants. Granting amnesty will forever exonerate and vindicate the dishonest civil servants and they are scot-free and will keep on enjoying the loot.

Thus I am posing a question, what is being done to apprehend the civil servants? Almost nothing and therefore this amnesty exercise is justified but unfair and one-sided.

My next point is more sensitive and equally serious. The current exercise involves returning the looted money.

How much of this goes to the government coffers and how much is pocketed by individuals who have the onus to negotiate and decide the amounts.

It seems the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has smelled a rat and therefore a separate account has been opened to deposit the refunds.

There is hearsay on the ground that not all goes to the government as intended. There are could be civil servants benefitting from this exercise and this is concerning.

Corruption is still rife. There is, therefore, an urgent and dire need of greater transparency in the ongoing process and the eyes, ears of the security organs and the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) should be alert to prevent another latent cycle of corruption and fraud in this noble initiative.

If these two points that I have pointed out are addressed I think this initiative of pardon is a fair and justified exercise and should be commended and supported.

Zulfiqarali Premji is a retired MUHAS professor. His career spans over 40 years in academia, research and public health.