News

Magufuli’s wake-up call to honour remarkable work

His own discovery not recognised for 9 years

Tuesday April 10, 2018

Tanzanite, a precious gemstone found at Mirerani in Tanzania alone

By Joe Lihundi

Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has called on government officials and scholars in the country to recognise various local discoveries and people behind them.

Dr Magufuli said he is himself among discoverers whose prototypes are gathering dust on the shelves of the University of Dar es Salaam.

While pursuing his PhD in Chemistry at the university in 2009, Dr Magufuli wrote a thesis on the Potential of Anacardic Acid Self-Assembled Monolayers from Cashew Nut Shell for Corrosion Protection Coating.

“I have not even received a letter of recognition to date, this is one of the challenges of Tanzania when it comes to discoveries,” he lamented.

He walked his rhetoric right away by confirming the discoverer of tanzanite — a rare gemstone found in the country alone, ending years of speculations over the matter.

“Tanzanite has not been discovered by a foreigner,” said Dr Magufuli during the commissioning of a 24.5-kilometre wall, valued at over Sh5 billion ($2.2 million), built around the gemstone’s mines at Mirerani in Manyara Region.

He said all government’s archives though indicated Jumanne Ngoma, 78, discovered the gemstone; the man was languishing in poverty while his work continues producing billionaires and jobs elsewhere.

The Minister for Minerals, Ms Angella Kairuki, said Tanzania benefited only 20 per cent of the receipts accrued from the gemstone with the remaining 80 per cent going to Kenya and India.

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli and the First Lady, Janeth, pose for a picture with Mr Jumanne Ngoma (centre) — the man who discovered tanzanite in 1967 at Mirerani in the country.

Official figures of these countries indicate that Tanzania exported only $38 million worth tanzanite in 2013, while Kenya and India exported $100 million and 300 million, respectively.

Dr Magufuli said a letter signed by the Tanzania’s Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, in 1980, shows Mr Ngoma was the first person to send samples of minerals from the site to the Chief Government Geologist back in 1967.

“Mr Ngoma was awarded a certificate of technical science in 1984, but he has been seeking official recognition of his discovery since to no avail,” Dr Magufuli noted, vowing that he would write an official letter to recognise and honour his work.

“When I received short text messages on Mr Ngoma’s fate, I sympathised with him. My government will deposit Sh100 million into his bank account in two or three days in support of his treatment and other amenities,” he promised.

The early bird though catches the worm; the life of the first man to spot tanzanite does not tally with the multi-billion-dollar industry marred by smuggling.

“We must value fellow Tanzanians with extraordinary work, we would not gather here if it wasn’t his efforts,” he stressed.

Mr Ngoma, who is currently suffering from stroke, extended his gratitude to Dr Magufuli for recognising him “and more importantly, for realising that I sweated buckets which see hundreds of Tanzanians and foreigners employed at the mines today”.

Much as tanzanite is a naturally occurring substance, many might have stumbled across the precious gemstone since its formation five million years ago.

Dr Hussein Mwinyi, the Tanzania’s Defence and National Service Minister, hands over a symbolic key of the entrance gate for the Mirerani Wall to President John Magufuli at the site on Friday. PHOTOS | AGENCIES

However, it is the find and recognition of the stone as something new that creates the discovery.

A Goan family and tanzanite beneficiary once jumped down Mr Ngoma’s throat, calling on the government to retract its recognition of him as the man who had discovered the gemstone.

Mr Ngoma first received a presidential award in recognition of his role in the discovery of the gemstone during the Union fete held at the State House in Dar es Salaam few years ago.

“Ngoma is not documented anywhere,” argued Manuel de Souza in a family statement a day after the ceremony, saying his grandfather had actually discovered the gemstone.

He displayed as evidence copies of an obituary on his grandfather’s death published in a local newspaper called Northern News, and the government’s gazette bearing names of owners of mining clamps at Mirerani in the late 1960s.

“We feel the current political leaders of the country have been grossly misled and ill-advised,” he lamented then, asserting that xenophobia was shrouded in the process of recognising Ngoma.

“Because my grandfather was an Indian immigrant, he will not be officially recognised as the discoverer in Tanzania,” he explained.

A wall built to intensify security of tanzanite gemstone at Mirerani in Manyara Region, Tanzania.

He, however, admits Mr Ngoma was in the area prior to the discovery and that he also owned a gypsum claim in Pare area, a distant place from the actual location of the tanzanite find.

Mr Ngoma laughed when consulted then, saying if given an opportunity to talk to the de Souza family, he would tell them on how their grandfather had harassed him.

De Souza colluded with officials, including a Moshi-based minerals officer then Hubert Kitenge, to grab four out of eight tanzanite mining claims Monduli Mineral Office licensed him at Sh15 each.

He recalled how the Goan tailor cum prospector, flanked by police officers and dogs, one day stopped his vehicle, drew out a pistol, and threatened to kill him, leading his colleague Stanley Masharubu to lose his gemstones as he ran for his life.

After extracting a great deal of tanzanite at Mirerani, de Souza, whose house is now the residence of the Bishop of the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro, went to sell the rare gemstone to Europe where his grandchildren were currently living, he recalled.

In their statement, the grandchildren of de Souza, who died in a motor accident in 1969, admit that members of their family were scattered in Tanzania, Denmark, Malta, and the United Kingdom.

Northern Zone Mineral Commissioner’s Office backed Mr Ngoma, saying documents from the minerals office in Dodoma indicated he was the first person to report on tanzanite discovery.

The office said de Souza was among pioneer dealers of the gemstone which was initially known as zoisite before the US-based luxury jewelry and specialty retailer — Tiffany and Company — coined it into tanzanite.

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