By Elias Mhegera and Damas Makangale – THE call by President Jakaya Kikwete for the Cooperative Unions to stop selling their housing property has raised eyebrows among the critics who say the same directive has to be sent to public institutions, which continue to sell public houses and prime areas relentlessly, despite a big segment of the public calling on the Government to halt the exercise.
The directive by President Jakaya Kikwete to halt the selling of property belonging to Cooperative Unions could be a step forward to reviving the once powerful institutions, but people are doubting its effectiveness if there are no tough laws to support the initiative.
But probably what might be seen as a contradictory stance is the fact that the same Government had allowed the negative trend of selling public houses and prime areas which has continued, despite a loud outcry from a big segment of the public, calling on the Government to halt this exercise. One wonders whether the call by President Kikwete was not a reaction, following the revelation from the Tanzania Federation of Cooperatives about selling their buildings far below the market value.
Speaking in Dar es Salaam at an event commemorating the International Year for Cooperatives, on Tuesday this week, Kikwete, who was the guest of honour at the occasion, said that this dubious practice, which has involved some senior leaders of TFC selling their buildings, may kill the cooperative unions forever.
“This ill-advised practice of selling cooperative buildings is an assassination of the sustainability of the federation to cope with a changing environment in the running of cooperatives, as it denies them income,” Kikwete said.
He said that the leaders of the cooperatives should adhere to their professional ethics in serving the majority of poor farmers across the country, while buildings are the main assets that can be used to get access to loans through various local financial institutions.
Kikwete added that these assets can be used as stepping-stones to assist farmers, but also they can be used as reliable sources of income by leasing them instead of selling them at such big losses.
Commenting on this sudden stance by the President, a senior lecturer in political science at St Augustine’s University of Tanzania, and a regular commentator, Prof Mwesigwa Baregu, said that he commends the President for this appeal but he is worried that it has come belatedly.
“The Government has the task of protecting its property, including buildings, but in this case one wonders at the lack of consistency, taking into consideration the fact that the same Government has allowed the sale of civil servants’ quarters, this is contradictory,” he remarked.
He reminded us that during the last General Election in 2010, President Kikwete had promised he would return servants’ quarters to the Government, but after assuming power for the second term he had stayed his hand without taking any serious measures, a sign that he might be facing resistance from certain Government officials, and probably other fellow party stalwarts.
Prof Baregu was saddened by the fact that, despite the abject poverty that the population are facing it could still sell its real estate, which in many cases consists of reliable assets for bonds, and many other meaningful values.
Shoutafrica.com also managed to interview another retired civil servant from the Tanzania Building Agency, one however preferring anonymity, who said that during his tenure in the agency there was never any plan to sell Government quarters, especially those in prosperous areas. But he was not surprised when this step was taken, because some political bigwigs had already indicated that they were in no way ready to surrender Government houses soon after their retirement.
In question, there has always been a house which the Third Phase President Benjamin Mkapa occupied for a number of years at Sea View, Upanga, while still in Government service, but had decided to inherit after his retirement. It is speculated that this move was what justified the sale of Government houses to other civil servants, some of whom had already retired but were still residing in these houses unlawfully.
The sale of these houses sparked a lot of criticism, due to the fact that even houses belonging to doctors in regional hospitals were sold, with the effect that whenever there are transfers new doctors are forced to rent, in areas which sometimes are unfriendly to them as if to squatters.
Dr Oswald Mashindano, from the Economic and Social Research Foundation, commented that the sale of any Government property must adhere to the guiding rules concerned. For that matter, if there is evidence that properties belonging to the Cooperative Unions have been embezzled, then stern legal measures must be taken against all the culprits.
“I am surprised to hear these outbursts from the President, because if you want these leaders (of cooperatives) to be clean, the top leadership must be clean in the first instance,” he concluded.