This gleaming palace is Tanzania’s anti-corruption HQ. Its chief, answering
Aurelie and I (in pincer move) how an institute purportedly fighting graft
warranted this palatial workspace and a car park full of shiny 4x4s, were
told that such luxuries were needed to motivate staff and Landcruisers were
better than Volkswagens.
What is even more mysterious is what was going to happen to all the brand
new computers donated by China at an anti-corruption donation event, when
three staff said that everyone had computers.
What is even more confusing is how they were going to divvy up the 10 USB
sticks and one mobile phone also donated by China’s ambassador, who
announced his country’s “zero tolerance” policy towards corruption.
More awkwardly, the technology given to help stop audacious, multi million
and billion dollar scandals in Tanzania’s burgeoning extractives industry,
cost roughly the same amount as the building.
Then, the anti-corruption boss admitted that he didn’t speak out about any
of this until the media published things, but the journalists there
admitted they had been paid a “facilitation fee” (double what they’d be
paid by outlets for the story) to come and said that the bureau didn’t give
Finally, we snapped photos of the building on the way out, leading the
(already) angry press spokesperson to call our fixer and accuse us of being
spies, and threaten to arrest him if we published bad things, which he
giggled at and told her to bring it on.
Possibly the most ridiculous anti-corruption event I’ve been to, but the
saddest too. This newfound wealth has the potential to lift countless
people out of poverty, but with no high-ranking official jailed for
stealing public money and some accused of being involved in huge energy
scams in the presidential race, it seems bound to line the pockets of the
few who buy elections and major media.
One site that won’t be bought is Jamii Forums, a kind of Tanzania Wikileaks
whose founder is broke, works 20 hours a day and whose refusal to give up
the identities of sources sharing real news on his site has led the
government to push draconian bills through parliament to gag him.
A truly inspirational man, he would never let his seven-year-old daughter
do what he does, but won’t go back to be a highly paid engineer, “as some
things are more important”. A true advocate of free speech in an otherwise