The unresolved abduction of billionaire businessman Mohammed Dewji has led to a tussle between the government and the Opposition over calls to allow external investigators to join the hunt for the missing tycoon.
The opposition spokesperson for Home Affairs, Mr Godbless Lema, on Tuesday October 16 asked the government to invite foreign experts to investigate the abduction, accusing the police of not showing any serious resolve to find the businessman and arrest his abductors. But in a swift response, Home Affairs deputy minister Hamad Masauni declared that the government had no intention of allowing foreign investigators as police were capable of the work.
It was the second time that a senior government official had affirmed that no foreigners would be allowed to investigate the unfolding events around last week’s incident.
Home Affairs minister Kangi Lugola was the first to state that there was no need to invite forensic experts from outside Tanzania to handle the case.
However, addressing a press conference yesterday, Mr Lema criticised the police for the way they have conducted the investigation so far.
He said by allowing an independent investigator, the government would discredit claims that it may have been complicit in the abduction.
“If you look carefully at statements made by the government, and the police in particular, you’ll see an utter lack of seriousness as far as the (government’s) response is concerned,” said the Arusha Urban MP.
Mr Lema added that the investigation should also be expanded to include other incidents where people have disappeared without a trace in the last few years.
Mr Lugola said last week that at least 75 people had been abducted in the last three years alone, adding that most of the cases – which involved business rivalry, love affairs, witchcraft or revenge – were resolved.
In his first public statement since Mr Dewji was abducted, Mr Lema said the push for independent investigators would help vindicate the government of suspicion that it may have been behind such incidents.
Mr Lema, who is also a member of Chadema’s Central Committee, said the government should realise that seeking help from external investigators on such a matter of national importance was not a sign of weakness.
Rather, he added, it would show that the government was genuinely intent on resolving the mystery surrounding Mr Dewji’s abduction.
But speaking at a press conference in Zanzibar shortly after Mr Lema had spoken, Mr Masauni maintained that the government would not entertain such an idea because it had the capacity to handle the matter.
“I don’t see any reason to invite external investigators because we have enough capacity to carry out the job,” he said.
Mr Masauni urged Tanzanians and other people to volunteer information, which would help the authorities to find Mr Dewji.
Meanwhile, opposition chief whip Tundu Lissu called for action, saying abductions were on the rise. Mr Lissu is recovering in Belgium after he was shot and seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in Dodoma last year.
“We don’t have to involve politics in these incidents because they involve people’s lives. The government should take action,” he told The Citizen’s sister newspaper, Mwananchi.
Mr Dewji, 43, was abducted by unidentified gunmen last Thursday when he went for a workout at the high-end Colosseum Hotel in Oyster Bay, Dar es Salaam.
Police have released 19 of the 26 who were being held for questioning in connection with the abduction of the tycoon, whose family on Monday announced a reward of Sh1 billion for information leading to his safe return.
Mr Dewji was kidnapped by unknown men on Thursday October 11 and is still missing.