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Govt Clears Up Border Saga
May 14, 2020 (Tanzania Daily News/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) —
THE government has strongly refuted claims that Zambia has closed Nakonde border, a frontier between Tanzania and the Copper producing nation, closing the debate that has recently been ravaging in mainstream and social media platforms.
Speaking in the House yesterday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and East Africa Cooperation, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi castigated the reports, affirmatively stating that the claims were utterly false.
Holding a letter from his Zambian counterpart, Mr Joseph Malanji, Prof Kabudi said Zambia suspended operations at Nakonde border for five days so as to devise a proper arrangement that will help to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
According to Prof Kabudi, Tanzania and Zambia are scheduled to hold a strategic meeting which seeks to discuss challenges accelerated by the pandemic.
"It is not normal for letters of this nature to be made public but I have decided to publicize it for the public to know," Prof Kabudi said immediately after he read in Parliament the letter from his counterpart from Zambia.
Speaking on the Rwanda border, Prof Kabudi said everything was fine as talks were ongoing with Rwandan authorities to address the problem exacerbated by the pandemic.
"We held talks with Rwanda on May 10th, 11th and another meeting is planned to be held tomorrow," he insisted, before hitting out at doomsayers; "during this time we should learn to suffer many fools."
Prof Kabudi also crystal cleared on claims that Tanzania failed to take part in the meeting that involved some heads of State from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
He informed the House that the meeting which was chaired by the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was not a SADC meeting as some ill-intentioned individuals propagated.
"Official SADC meetings are being summoned by the regional executive secretary in discussion with its chairperson … in this case Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax and President John Magufuli," Prof Kabudi said.
He revealed that President Ramaphosa chaired the meeting involving heads of state from Southern African Customs Union (SACU) members to discuss responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Only Angola, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe confirmed participating.
In the meeting according to Prof Kabudi, eight SADC member states including Tanzania did not participate.
Equally, he said the meeting by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Mseveni of Uganda was also not an official EAC meeting.
The minister noted that not every diplomatic measure undertaken by the state were to be made public, emphasizing that the state had taken all appropriate precautions in mitigating the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier on Prof Kabudi had insisted that Tanzania will not close its borders in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic as the decision to impose restrictions at such frontiers will severely affect movements of essential goods and services especially to land-linked countries.
"Coronavirus is dangerous… but lack of essential services such as food, fuel and medical supplies to land-linked countries could be more damaging."
The World Bank suggests that Dar es Salaam port is an important access route to six land-linked countries including Malawi, Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Eastern DRC as it also provides a gateway for 90 per cent of Tanzanian trade.
Prof Kabudi, who was moving his ministry's 199.75bn/- budget estimates and expenditures for the 2020/21 fiscal year, said the government has instructed customs officers working on all the One-Stop Border Posts-OSBPs to suspend unnecessary checks that could affect the flow of goods and services.
"We have advised our officers to avoid imposing restrictions that could affect the movement of important commodities to land-linked countries notably during the coronavirus pandemic," he pointed out.
The Tunduma-Nakonde border links at least four countries namely; Tanzania, Zambia, DRC and Zimbabwe.
The border's closure will not deal a heavy blow to the economies of the four countries but affect the flow of essential goods and services.
According to available data, over 70 per cent of goods in transit which are imported through Dar es Salaam port are transported across the Tunduma-Nakonde border.
The value of cargo passing through the border annually to destinations in Zambia, DRC and Zimbabwe is estimated at $1.5 billion.
Prof Kabudi insisted that Tanzania was taking necessary measures to contain the contagion domestically and across the region.
According to the minister, Tanzania being the regional chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has implemented a number of measures to help the regional battle the deadly novel virus.
Tanzania, he said, coordinated regional emergency meetings through video conferencing that helped adopt comprehensive guidelines which included screening and subsequently isolating truck drivers crossing borders.
"We also agreed that all international arrivals must go for a 14-days compulsory quarantine," he said.
Prof Kabudi said the coronavirus pandemic has posed a serious economic crisis globally, recalling the World Bank and IMF projections that it could result in a great depression similar to those that occurred in 1929 and 1933.
He acknowledged that the crisis could further paralyze industrial production, affect access to social service as well as employment rates.
On the other hand, Prof Kabudi revealed the government was further working to outsource some funding to finance the construction of the 178km-long regional highway from Malindi-Mombasa-Horohoro-Tanga-Pangani-Bagamoyo that will link Tanzania with Kenya.
The Tanzania road section will cost 195.5million US dollars.
The majority of lawmakers who contributed to the ministry's budget estimates were in support of the government measures to battle the Corona pandemic but urged the State to conduct more investigation to understand the implication of neighbouring countries closing their borders.
by Sylvester Domasa in Dodoma
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