FROM THE PUBLIC EDITOR'S DESK : Locomotives scam stinks to high heaven, and yet Tanzania’s media is blissfully silent

Monday October 16 2017

Ndimara Tegambwage is Public Editor with

Ndimara Tegambwage is Public Editor with Mwananchi Communications Limited. 

By Ndimara Tegambwage

It is hard to believe – and that is if one has understood the message – what the media reported widely last Saturday on the government’s intention to “buy” the so called abandoned 11 locomotive engines at the port of Dar es Salaam.

Let us be serious. There is nothing controversial about the locomotive engines. There is nothing like dumping or “deserting” the locomotives at the port. There is nothing to buy as there is nothing to sell in the form of 11 locos at the port – all painted in the colours of Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL).

If there was any controversy, it would be between the manufacturer and the buyer, and areas of disagreement would be known to the world. If there was “dumping”, authorities would have cleared the “unwanted” load which has hitherto been securely guarded; and not seen to be posing any security risk.

If there was any “abandonment” of the locomotives, the authorities would have made efforts to get owners to collect their engines; or in the absence of owner, have them dismantled and scrap material used for other purposes, or sold to whomever would find use of the same.

Let us be honest. There is not a single, generous manufacturer in the United States, South Africa or anywhere in the world, who would sit down, think and decide that TRL needs the engines; manufacture them, decorate them with the national company’s colours and ship them to Tanzania.

There is not a single manufacturer who would put money into a project of this magnitude without working on specifications answering to the standards of a company whose colours shine bright on the locos; and at the end “abandon” the products at Dar es Salaam.

If anything, the property is meant for TRL and Dar es Salaam is not a pretended destination. But someone somewhere is trying to hide one thing: details on the modality that led to the contract that gave “birth” to the engines.

Going by this reasoning, no person or company has damped, abandoned, relinquished – or simply put it this way – given up absolutely, the locos at the harbour.

Therefore, there is no controversy about the products. There is no known controversy among these three: the official who made an order and signed the contract; the company that signed the contract and agreed to deliver and the manufacturer or assembler of the locos.

In the absence of abandonment and controversy, I load it all on media. It has failed or refused or feared to collect all the pieces about this “love in the bush affair,” and come up with award-winning stories.

It is the silence; call it rudely – the absence of media – that has contributed to the on-going drama by the minister for transport and communications; that of planning to “buy” locos “abandoned” at the port.

While in the know that there exists a US-based company called Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) which signed a contract in 2013; that EMD sub-contracted the job to a South African company called DCD Group (Pty); and that dates for delivery were made public; there was no reason for media to fear to follow up an award winning story.

Given that there was an official statement by the TRL director general at that time, Mr Kipallo Kisamfu, to the effect that Sh70.9 billion had been paid to the contractor; there was no need for accommodating lethargic talk about the owner of the locomotives.

It is on record that President John Magufuli hinted on something closer to a discrepancy in clearing the locos without knowing who the owner was; and ordered security organs to investigate. Unfortunately these organs do not report to thenmedia or the public.

What we have now is a situation where facts, figures and evidence show that the government wants to buy a product it had bought already. And the media is silent (silenced?). Who will get us out of this quagmire?