...AS SENIOR OFFICIAL WARNS: "IT'S MORALLY, ETHICALLY AND LEGALLY
WRONG FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO PAY DOWANS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES."
A sophisticated propaganda campaign has been unleashed to dupe Tanzanians and senior government officials to approve a dubious payment of more than $65.8 million (approx. 100 billion shillings) plus interest to Dowans Holdings SA/Dowans Tanzania Limited for an illegal power generation contract, it has been revealed.
The perfectly planned propaganda, which is firmly underway, is aimed at deliberately confusing senior officials in President Jakaya Kikwete's government and members of the public with threats, intimidations and false arguments to ensure the government pays up.
"A psychological warfare is being waged in favour of payments to Dowans. The president is getting conflicting advice from all directions and maybe he doesn't even know who to believe. Perhaps this explains why he has been so quiet about the whole issue," a senior official close to the government told THISDAY.
She added: "It's morally, ethically and legally wrong for the government to pay Dowans under any circumstances for a contract that has been deemed illegal under the country's laws. There is no way to justify such a payment."
Sources familiar with the propaganda campaign orchestrated by beneficiaries of the planned Dowans payment said there is a well-funded plot to "brain-wash" Tanzanians to support the illegal deal.
"Influential people in society, including present-day and retired politicians, legal experts and even religious leaders have been compromised to support Dowans," she said.
"In the coming days, we will hear all sorts of people -- including opposition leaders -- coming out and supporting illegal payments to Dowans."
Top senior government officials and some journalists have also been recruited in the pro-Dowans campaign and are pushing hard for the state to make the dubious payments, it has been revealed.
In an unprecedented move, senior Cabinet ministers have been making conflicting public statements on whether or not Dowans should be paid, highlighting deep divisions within the highest levels of Kikwete's government on the matter.
The Minister for Energy and Minerals, William Ngeleja, has already announced that the government would pay Dowans $65.8 million on the basis of a controversial ruling by the International Court of Arbitration (ICC).
However, Ngeleja's decision has been widely opposed by members of the public and even some fellow cabinet ministers.
It is understood that there is deliberate communication being made through certain sections of the Tanzanian media aimed at influencing the attitude of the country toward Dowans.
"Some newspapers have been presenting information primarily to influence the audience to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented," said one official familiar with the pro-Dowans media blitz.
The Minister for East African Affairs, Samuel Sitta, and the Deputy Minister for Infrastructure Development, Dr Harisson Mwakyembe, who have publicly opposed the Dowans deal, are being targeted in a fierce media smear campaign.
"These pro-Dowans newspapers have been carrying out personal attacks on Sitta and Mwakyembe to try to divert the people's attention from the real issue at hand, which is the proposed payment of 100 billion shillings on the basis of an unlawful contract," said one official.
While a fierce propaganda campaign is being played out in public, efforts are underway quietly in government to ensure Dowans payment is made before the February 8 start of the next parliamentary session.
The Richmond/Dowans contract with the state-run Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) was terminated following recommendations of a parliamentary committee that probed the power generation deal signed in 2006.
The report, which was unanimously endorsed by he National Assembly, called for the termination of the contract because it contravened the Public Procurement Act of 2004.
Independent legal experts have explained that the government can avoid or even refuse outright to pay Dowans because of the the illegality of the contract under Tanzanian law.
The Arbitration Act gives the High Court of Tanzania powers to set aside the ICC ruling, but there has been a strong reluctance from certain government officials, including Ngeleja and Attorney General Frederick Werema, to use such legal recourse for unknown reasons.
This has prompted some civil society organisations in Tanzania to file a legal challenge at the High Court to try to block the planned dubious payment to Dowans.