Tears and disbelief reigned at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Monday morning, as two former cabinet ministers bid goodbye to their family members whom they will hardly interact with – at least for the next three years.
Former Finance Minister Basil Mramba, 75 and his Energy and Mineral counterpart Daniel Yona, 76 will have to spend the next three years behind bars, serving their jail sentence for abuse of office and subjecting the government to 11.7bn/- loss.
They were convicted in the historical trial related to the procurement of gold assayers firm, Alex Stewart Government Business Corporation. Observers say this is the first court decision in the judiciary’s history to condemn influential former cabinet ministers to jail on criminal charges.
Two members of a panel hearing the historical case, Judge Sam Rumanyika and Mr Saul Kinemela, who is a senior official in the Labour Commission, convicted the two ex-ministers of the offences after they were satisfied by the evidence given by prosecution witnesses.
In the judgment, the two members of the court who sat at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court as Principal Resident Magistrates rejected the shield applied by the convicts that President Benjamin Mkapa had authorised the acquisition of the gold assayers company.
“We do not think that the president had directed urgent procurement of the Alex Steward Assayers without following the procedure.
The president, otherwise, should have so directed in express terms,” Judge Rumanyika, declared when reading the judgment.
They further held that the Government Notices that were granted by Mramba for tax exemptions were arbitrarily issued in total disregard of the advice given by the Attorney General (AG) and officers from the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), leading to pecuniary loss.
The judgment of the court was not commonly reached as one member of the panel, Judge John Utamwa, gave a dissenting judgment. He had differed with others in respect of evidence given to have proved the charges against the two convicts.