Miner Becomes Millionaire After Uncovering ‘Biggest’ Precious Stones In Tanzania

Tanzanian small-scale miner Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, poses with the enlarged cheque copy from the government after selling two of the biggest of the country's precious gemstones, Tanzanite, during the ceremony for his historical discovery in Manyara, northern Tanzania, on June 24, 2020. Filbert RWEYEMAMU / AFP
Tanzanian small-scale miner Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, poses with the enlarged cheque copy from the government after selling two of the biggest of the country’s precious gemstones, Tanzanite, during the ceremony for his historical discovery in Manyara, northern Tanzania, on June 24, 2020. Filbert RWEYEMAMU / AFP


A Tanzanian small-scale miner has become a multi-millionaire after uncovering two of the biggest of the country’s precious tanzanite stones ever found and selling them to the government.

Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, found the stones weighing 9.27 and 5.1 kilogrammes (20.4 and 11.2 pounds) respectively in the northern Mirerani hills, an area which President John Magufuli had fenced off in 2018 to stop smuggling of the gem.

He sold them to the government for 7.7 billion Tanzanian shillings (nearly $3.3 million/2.9 million euros)

Tanzanite was first found in the foothills of Kilimanjaro in 1967, and the northern Tanzanian region of Manyara is the only known place where the stones, coveted by jewellers by their remarkable violet-blue sparkle, are found.

At a function celebrating the find in Manyara on Wednesday, mining minister Dotto Biteko said the stones were the biggest ever uncovered in the country.

Tanzanian small-scale miner Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, poses with two of the biggest of the country's precious gemstones, Tanzanite, as a millionaire during the ceremony for his historical discovery in Manyara, northern Tanzania, on June 24, 2020. Filbert RWEYEMAMU / AFP
Tanzanian small-scale miner Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, poses with two of the biggest of the country’s precious gemstones, Tanzanite, as a millionaire during the ceremony for his historical discovery in Manyara, northern Tanzania, on June 24, 2020. Filbert RWEYEMAMU / AFP


“Laizer is our (shilling) billionaire and let us make sure that he is safe,” he said.

“We are now moving from a situation where the small miners were smuggling tanzanite, and now they are following the procedures and paying government taxes and royalties.”

Laizer said he hoped to use the money to develop his community.

“I plan to build a mall in Arusha and a school near my home,” said Laizer.

“I thank God for this achievement because it’s the first time to get this size. When I found these, I notified government officials who valuated the stones and today they called me for payment.”

The government wrote on Twitter that the stones would be placed in the national museum.

Magufuli made a call to Laizer during the ceremony that was broadcast on loudspeakers, to congratulate him.

“This is the benefit to small miners and testifies to the fact that Tanzania is rich,” he said.

When the 24km (14-mile) perimeter wall was unveiled around the mining site, Magufuli said that 40 percent of all tanzanite produced at the site was being lost to smugglers.

Magufuli has taken multiple steps to regulate the mining sector, which has faced allegations of fraud and underreporting of production and profits.

Tanzania in 2017 introduced new regulations obliging foreign companies to give 16 percent free shares to the government

Tanzania First African Country To Restart League Amid COVID-19

(Files) Tanzania poses before playing Kenya in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations group match in Cairo last June. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP.


Tanzania this weekend became the first African country to resume a national league suspended during March because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Young Africans, who have been champions a record 22 times, won 1-0 away to Mwadui and Coastal Union overcame a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with visiting Namungo Saturday.

Runaway leaders Simba and Azam will both enjoy home advantage Sunday in the other two matches scheduled for this weekend.

Simba have 71 points with 10 matches to play, Azam and Young Africans share second place on 54 and Namungo lie fourth with 51.

Tanzania suspended the 20-club national championship in mid-March as the COVID-19 outbreak began to wreak havoc throughout Africa.

According to the Africa Centre for Disease Control on June 13, 225,126 people in Africa have been infected with 6,051 deaths.

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Spectators were permitted as the league resumed in the east African state, but the elderly, who are generally most vulnerable to the virus, and children were barred.

Before being allowed into a stadium, fans must wear a face mask, wash hands with soap or use a hand sanitiser, and have their temperature checked.

Once inside, spectators must practice social distancing by sitting or standing several metres apart.

Footballers, referees, coaches and support staff are subject to equally strict measures to combat the virus, and change rooms are fumigated before and after matches.

– Carried on playing –

Burundi, a tiny, landlocked country bordering Tanzania, were the only African country to continue playing top-flight football during the pandemic.

Footballers in Belarus, Nicaragua, Taiwan and Tajikistan also carried on playing while the rest of the global football industry shut down temporarily.

Le Messager Ngozi have 58 points and Musongati 55 in a two-club race for the Burundi title with two rounds remaining, which are set for the weekends of June 20/21 and 27/28.

Ngozi have won the Primus Ligue once while Musongati, who have also reached the FA Cup final, are seeking a maiden title.

Musongati were scheduled to meet Rukinzo in the cup final Saturday but the match was delayed as the country is mourning deceased president Pierre Nkurunziza.

Nkurunziza, 55, who had been due to step down in August after ruling Burundi for 15 years, died last Monday from a heart attack, according to the government.

A devout evangelical who believed he was chosen by God to lead Burundi, Nkurunziza will be succeeded by Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Tanzania played at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt after a 39-year absence while Burundi competed for the first time.

Both the Tanzanian Taifa Stars and the Burundian Swallows exited after the first round having lost their three group matches.


Tanzania Resumes Football League Amid COVID-19 Concerns

A file photo of the Tanzanian national flag.
A file photo of the Tanzanian national flag.


Tanzania’s football league resumed on Saturday after three months of suspension as the country insists its coronavirus outbreak is under control despite coming under fire for keeping its data secret.

Tanzania has officially recorded 509 cases, but has not given any data update since April 29, and while President John Magufuli assures cases have dropped, the United States has raised the alarm about the outbreak.

Compared to its neighbours Tanzania took very few measures to combat the virus, and opened up universities and international flights earlier this month.

The football league resumed with two games, and one was broadcast live, showing fans shaking hands after the match and sitting closely together without masks — despite a government call for caution.

Government spokesman Hassan Abbasi said he had personally inspected the second game at Mkwakwani Stadium in northern Tanga and was “satisfied the preparations and health guidelines are observed.”

Ahead of the resumption of the league, players were optimistic.

“I’m prepared for the league and apart from taking the precautions, I leave the rest to God,” said Dar es Salaam Young African (Yanga) Sports Club player Deus Kaseke, whose team played Saturday.

Defending champions Simba hold an unassailable lead of 71 points from 28 matches, with a further 17 more rounds of games before completion of the championship in July.

The winner will qualify for the African Champions League next season.

Tanzania Reopens Universities Despite COVID-19 Concerns

Students of Al-Haramain secondary school learn social studies as they attend their first day of re-opened school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on June 1, 2020. – All universities and form six, the final grade, of secondary schools have resumed after the government closed all schools on March 18, 2020, to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Ericky BONIPHACE / AFP.


Universities in Tanzania reopened on Monday, despite a lack of clarity on the spread of coronavirus after the government decided to stop updating figures in April.

As students entered dozens of campuses across Tanzania for the first time since mid-March, there were only cursory efforts to impose measures preventing the spread of COVID-19.

New hand-washing stations were spottily used while crowded lecture halls made a mockery of social distancing, leaving some students concerned.

“My parents were not happy to allow me back to the college, but there’s no way since it’s the government order to resume classes,” said Christopher Andrew, one of around 6,000 students at Dar es Salaam University College of Education.

In one lecture hall, a teacher admonished students after most removed their masks as they sat down.

“Next time, if you don’t wear a mask you will not get access to my class,” the lecturer warned.

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Student Aisha Abdul said it was impossible to follow hygiene guidance.

“It’s difficult to sit a metre apart because the course has a lot of students and that means the space is not enough to comply with social distancing principles,” she said.

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has consistently downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, and his government has not released official infection figures since April 29, when a total of 480 cases and 16 deaths had been recorded.

A government spokesperson said figures were not being released to avoid panic.

“Absence of data is actually my biggest worry,” said one concerned student, who did not want to be named. “If the trend shows decreasing cases then why should they worry to give us hope?”

“We are forced to believe that COVID-19 cases have dropped,” he said, adding that despite the uncertainty, “I need to finish my degree, so there’s no way I can dodge classes.”

Others, however, welcomed the reopening as a chance to see friends and get out of their homes.

“I was bored staying home. This is the moment I have been waiting for!” said Salha Juma, adding that he would “take precautions”.

The political opposition, foreign governments and activists have all criticised Tanzania for hiding information.

“It’s important we get complete and regular information so that we know the direction and can take relevant decisions,” said Onesmo Ole-Ngurumwa, national coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition.


Tanzania To Re-Open Universities, Sports Facilities Next Month

Tanzania Church Accuses Govt Of Harming Democracy
File photo of Tanzania’s President John Magufuli. PHOTO: Daniel Hayduk / AFP


Tanzanian President John Magufuli said on Thursday that universities and sports events would resume next month after he declared that prayer had spared the country the worst of the coronavirus, even as critics say cases are soaring.

Magufuli has repeatedly played down the gravity of the pandemic, and it has been three weeks since the country released official data on case numbers, which stood at 480 with 16 deaths on April 29.

However, while the US embassy has said there was evidence of “exponential growth” and the opposition denounces a dangerous “cover-up”, Magufuli is proceeding to open up the East African nation.

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“We have decided to reopen universities starting June 1, 2020,” Magufuli said at a political event in the capital Dodoma, adding that a decision on schools would be taken later.

He said sports events would resume on the same date, with social distancing measures taken for spectators.

“In the current trend, I have not heard any sports person died from the coronavirus and that means sports are not only important for fun but also in the fight against the viral disease,” he said.

The closing of schools and universities, the halting of sports events and flight restrictions were the only measures taken in Tanzania to curb the spread of the virus.

On Tuesday, Tanzania lifted restrictions on flights and said those entering the country would no longer need to undergo mandatory quarantine.

Neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya imposed full lockdowns or curfews and movement restrictions.

Kenya, last week, angered Tanzania by closing its land border to anything but cargo after a rising number of cases were imported from the country.

More than 100 truck drivers from Tanzania have been turned away after testing positive at the Kenyan border in recent days.

However, Magufuli said on Sunday that cases had “drastically dropped in hospitals following prayers.”

He declared three days of prayer starting Friday to thank God, while Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Paul Makonda has urged residents to come together and play music and make as much noise as possible on Sunday to celebrate.

Magufuli, 60, was elected in 2015 after winning support for his anti-corruption platform. Nicknamed “the bulldozer”, his no-nonsense attitude initially won him praise, but he has been accused of increasing authoritarianism.

Rights groups say his government has cracked down on the opposition and media.


Africa CDC Says Tanzania COVID-19 Tests ‘Very Reliable’


The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday sought to ease concerns by Tanzania that the country’s coronavirus test kits were faulty.

President John Magufuli on Monday suspended top officials at the country’s national laboratory, after saying he had secretly had animals and fruits tested — and a goat, a quail and pawpaw were found positive with the virus.

He cast doubt on the credibility of laboratory equipment and technicians and questioned official data on the epidemic.

“The tests that Tanzania and all African countries are using are tests that we have validated and we know that they are performing very well,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC.

“We are very instrumental in training, providing training to nearly all countries and providing them with test kits. We’ve also in the last couple of weeks and months distributed tests from the Jack Ma Foundation that have been validated and proven to be very, very reliable.”

Magufuli has come under fire for repeatedly playing down the gravity of the virus, and his country is one of few in Africa that have not taken extensive measures to curb the spread.

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After Magufuli on April 22 accused the health ministry of stoking panic by releasing new figures, the country has only updated its numbers once, on April 29, at which date it had recorded 480 cases.

He has urged citizens to keep attending church and the mosque, and his officials have suggested inhaling steam to fight the virus. Magufuli has also said he is in talks with Madagascar for a herbal tea the island nation claims cures the disease.

Baptised Covid-Organics, the drink is derived from artemisia — a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment — and other indigenous herbs.

Several African nations have expressed an interest in the purported remedy and the African Union has sought technical data from Madagascar.

“We should not discount anything at this point, we should know that the solutions may come completely from unexpected quarters,” said Nkengasong.

But he reiterated the scientific position that any claimed cure should be submitted to meticulous testing to see whether it is safe and effective.

“All we ask is that there should be a standard way of doing things that follow a standard protocol that is known in the scientific community,” he said.

“Scientists and public health experts should be leading these efforts in the country and… no-one should be in the haste to declare and make any announcement on any remedy or herbal product that has not been tested rigorously.”


FG Secures Release Of 60 Nigerians Imprisoned In Tanzania



The Nigerian Government has finalized arrangement for the release of 60 out of the 73 Nigerians imprisoned in Tanzania.

These Nigerians were imprisoned on different charges, says Mr Abdur-Rahman Balogun, Head, Media and Public Relations Unit, Nigeria in Diaspora Commission.

According to the Commission’s spokesman, their repatriation was made possible by the Nigerian ambassador to Tanzania.

Mr Balogun who disclosed this through a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, noted that ever before COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian Mission had been working on repatriation of Nigerian prisoners in Tanzania.

Balogun said, “The Ambassador, Dr Sahobi Gada, was in Nigeria in January 2020, specifically for this purpose after having successfully secured a release of 60 out of 73 Nigerians in various prisons in Tanzania. Arrangements were then being made by the Ambassador for their repatriation.”

He also noted that most of the convicts are arrested for alleged drug-related offences, while a few of the offences bordered on immigration law violations.

He explained that the mission had been visiting other custodial facilities in Tanzania to check other Nigerians who may be serving jail terms, adding that it had also canvassed for amnesty for the prisoners on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For each of the 73 Nigerians in the prison, the mission had paid 330, 000 shillings (N55,544) as court fees and was always represented in court. The mission had also successfully negotiated the repatriation of 60 prisoners,” Mr Balogun stated.

Below is the full statement on the matter, as released by the Commission.

Tanzania Records First Death From COVID-19


Tanzania on Tuesday recorded its first death from coronavirus, a 49-year-old man who had underlying health issues, the health ministry said.

The East African nation has reported cases since March 16, including foreign travellers and those with whom they have had contacts. One person has so far recovered.

“I regret to announce the first death of coronavirus patient early this morning. The 49-year old man had other health complications,” Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said in a statement, without giving details.

Tanzania has already shut all schools and universities in a bid to curb the disease, and from Tuesday parliament cut working hours and limited the number of MPs allowed in the debating chamber.

However while neighbouring countries have imposed lockdowns and urged people to stay home, President John Magufuli has played down the seriousness of the disease.

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“This is time to build our faith and continue praying to God and not depending on face masks. Don’t stop going to churches and mosques for prayers. I’m sure this is just a change of wind and it will go like others have gone,” Magufuli said at a church in Dodoma earlier this month.

“There are too many threats being spread about corona but this is a small disease and we will beat it in the name of Jesus. I also ask Tanzanians to continue working hard,” he added.

His comment was criticised by other politicians who said Tanzania should actually consider closing churches and mosques to avoid spreading coronavirus.

“Let’s not argue with science,” said opposition lawmaker Zitto Kabwe on Twitter.


Tanzania Opposition Lawmakers Found Guilty For Illegal Protest

Chadema party leaders stand in the dock at Kisutu resident magistrates court in Dar es Salaam on March 10, 2020. Ericky BONIPHACE / AFP
Chadema party leaders stand in the dock at Kisutu resident magistrates court in Dar es Salaam on March 10, 2020. Ericky BONIPHACE / AFP


A court in Tanzania on Tuesday ordered a group of opposition lawmakers and other co-accused to pay a fine or serve five months prison on charges related to a banned demonstration. 

A judge in Dar es Salaam found the nine defendants including top political opposition figures guilty of sedition and other charges and sentenced them to jail unless they raised 350 million shillings ($152,000) in penalties.

The accused, including Chadema party chairman Freeman Mbowe, four MPs and other senior opposition officials, were remanded in custody after failing to raise the money.

“We went to the court believing that we could win. However, this sentence will not stop us from fighting for democracy in this country,” the party’s deputy chairman, Said Issa Mohammed, told reporters after the verdict.

He said Chadema, the main opposition movement challenging Tanzania’s powerful ruling CCM party, was trying to raise the money, and would consider appealing.

Mbowe and the others were charged in 2018 with sedition, unlawful assembly and inciting violence, among other offences, over a rally in which police fired live rounds to disperse Chadema supporters demanding accreditation in a local election.

A 22-year-old student who was not taking part was shot dead by a stray bullet from police.

Some of the charges were linked to a speech Mbowe gave during the demonstration in which he said President John Magufuli would not last long in his job.

The demonstration had been banned by Magufuli’s government, which has been accused of crushing dissent, jailing critics and passing draconian laws that have weakened freedoms in Tanzania.

The strongman leader, who was elected in 2015, is expected to run for another term later this year in a country once seen as a bastion of democracy in a tumultuous part of Africa.

Magufuli took office as a corruption-fighting “man of the people” but has been criticised for his authoritarian leadership style.

In September 2017, lawmaker Tundu Lissu, a member of Chadema, was shot and seriously injured at his home. The following year two local Chadema officials were killed by unknown gunmen, in murders described by the opposition as political assassinations.



20 Killed In Tanzanian Church Stampede

Moshi residents in Kilimanjaro region, northern Tanzania, queue outside Mawenzi hospital on February 2, 2020 to identify their relatives after 20 people died and 16 injured in stampede yesterday evening at Majengo open ground during the church service who rushed to get blessed oil.


20 people in Tanzania were trampled to death at an open-air evangelical Christian church service in the north of the country, officials said on Sunday.

Kippi Warioba, the District Commissioner in the northern town of Moshi, said he feared the number of dead could still rise from the accident which took place on Saturday.

“So far, 20 people have died, but the death toll could increase as there were also wounded,” Warioba told AFP.

At least 16 others were injured in the crush, he said.

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The tragedy happened when a crowd of worshippers was attending a prayer ceremony on Saturday led by the popular preacher, Boniface Mwamposa, who heads the Arise and Shine Ministry Tanzania.

The stampede occurred when Mwamposa, who calls himself the “Apostle”, poured what he said was holy oil on the ground and the crowd surged toward to touch it in the hope of being cured of sickness, witnesses said.

“The Apostle Boniface Mwamposa poured sacred anointing oil on the ground,” one witness, Jennifer Temu, told AFP.

“Dozens of people immediately fell being jostled and trampled, and some died. We have counted 20 people killed — but there are also wounded.”

Police Question Preacher

“It was horrible, people trampled on mercilessly, jostling each other with elbows,” said another witness, Peter Kilewo.

“It was like the preacher had thrown bundles of dollars about… and there were all these deaths!”

Mwamposa, the preacher, fled the scene after the stampede, and police appealed in a broadcast on national television for him to hand himself in.

The preacher was arrested in the port city of Dar es Salaam later on Sunday.

“Boniface Mwamposa tried to flee after this incident, but as I speak, he is in the hands of the police,” Interior Minister George Simbachawene told a press conference.

Simbachawene said that the preacher had started the stamped by calling on the packed crowd to place their foot on the spot where he had poured the oil.

“These are the words that led to these deaths,” said Simbachawene. “He must answer for it.”

Tanzanian police chief Simon Sirro, who confirmed the toll of 20 dead, said investigations were ongoing into the incident.

Seven other people were arrested in Moshi, where the stampede took place,in connection with the incident.

Sirro also said police would also look into how church organisations handle such large-scale crowd events in general.

“We pray for them, but I must say that some churches are troublesome — and we will see how to handle them,” Sirro said.

President John Magufuli also issued a statement mourning the death of 20 people in Moshi, as well as 20 others killed by floods in Tanzania’s southern Lindi region this week.

“I’m very sorry for these deaths of these Tanzanians in the two events,” Magufuli said.


‘World’s Oldest’ Rhinoceros Dies At 57

A picture taken on December 27, 2019 shows Jacob, a 28 years old Black rhinoceros in its enclosure in Pont-Scorff’s Zoo, western France. AFP


A black rhino believed to be the oldest in the world has died in Tanzania at the age of 57, according to authorities in Ngorongoro where the animal was living.

The female rhino, named Fausta, died of what is believed to be natural causes on December 27 in a sanctuary, after living most of her life in the wild, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority said in a statement on Saturday.

“Records show that Fausta lived longer than any rhino in the world and survived in the Ngorongoro, free-ranging, for more than 54 years” before she was moved to a sanctuary in 2016, said the statement.

“Fausta was first located in the Ngorongoro crater in 1965 by a scientist from the University of Dar Es Salaam, at the age between three and four years. Her health begun to deteriorate in 2016, when we were forced to put the animal in captivity, after several attacks from hyena and severe wounds thereafter,” it added.

Sana, a female southern white rhino, aged 55, was considered the world’s oldest white rhino when she died in captivity at the La Planete Sauvage Zoological park in France, in 2017.

Ngorongoro estimates the life expectancy of rhinos to be between 37 and 43 years in the wild, while they can live to over 50 in captivity.


Court Charges Rights Activist With Money Laundering


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A Tanzanian court charged rights activist Tito Magoti with money laundering and other offences after holding him in custody for four days, the organisation for which he works said Tuesday.

Prosecutors in Kisuto court said Magoti and co-worker Theodory Giyan had been charged with leading organised crime, money laundering and possessing computer programmes designed for the purpose of committing crimes.

Both were being held in custody to await a January 7 hearing.

Magoti, of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), was arrested by plain-clothed officers who bundled him into an unmarked car on Friday, initially raising fears that he had been abducted.

Although Dar es Salaam regional police commander Lazaro Mambosasa confirmed his arrest, family and friends were unable to contact him until Tuesday’s court appearance.

A statement from the LHRC said the suspects were in good health but that Magoti appeared very tired.

They had been questioned about their relationship with fellow activists Maria Sarungi and Fatma Karume and with opposition politician Zitto Kabwe, the statement added.

“We are closely following the case and will provide legal representation,” said the LRHC.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) both denounced what they said was the deteriorating human rights situation in Tanzania in statements in late October.

They argued that since President John Magufuli came to power at the end of 2015, his administration has stepped up repressive action against the country’s news media, civil society, and the opposition.