The Acquittal of Convicted Former Arusha City Director & Two Others Puts the DPP Under Spotlight

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The former Arusha Executive Director, Dr John Pima, and two other accomplices were set free by the High Court in Arusha, leaving behind a trail of nagging questions about how the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) works. The gist of the High Court ruling was the aloofness and inaction of the DPP office in the indictment and prosecution of the matter before the resident magistrate courts. The acquitted were convicted of economic saboteur crimes, attracting 20 years behind bars.

This insight chronicles the whole episode and reveals why the DPP was conspicuously detached from such pivotal criminal proceedings with substantial public interest, leading to acquittal based upon frivolous and vexatious technicalities rather than the merits of the criminal indictments.

Unconfirmed stories of top officers in the Arusha municipality helping themselves with public money were being openly discussed. Some claimed top officials were doling billions of dollars to relatives and sweethearts of public funds through bank transfer transactions. The allegedly stolen money obtained through loans was earmarked for building public schools. Bank transfers leave behind a fresh trail that, surprisingly, judicial scrutiny conveniently did not trace and rebuke!

The Premier also sarcastically weighed in on the matter, confirming our worst fears that unscrupulous public officers were using public funds for personal use. But the court of the general public was unsure that the colossal amounts being peddled around were correct, so they patiently waited to get to the root of the matter in a court of law.

Average Tanzanians are unfamiliar with the criminal proceedings act, so when they heard the accused were indicted, remanded and arraigned in a court of law, they were delighted at least some retaliatory accountability to deter future culprits from emptying money set aside for their children. Regrettably, the citizens were unprepared for what had unfolded before their eyes.

When the magistrate courts sent the accused to 20 years of jail term, the faith in the office of the DPP was restored in many ways, and many thought justice was served; little did they prepare for what would follow. Being unperturbed by the lengthy sentence, the convicts recruited high-powered lawyers who assailed acts of commission or omission of the DPP office that devastated the office’s image in the public eye.

Attacking the integrity of the convictions, the lawyers alleged the DPP did not sanction the prosecution of the presidential appointees of whom the Executive Director was, albeit others were not! We restrain our overzealousness from biting this sizzling bait to inquire about the merits of this pleading since the matter may still be under sub-judice proceedings, meaning the DPP may appeal to the land’s highest court. We shall constrain ourselves into issues of the administration of justice and sating legitimate public expectations without touching on the merits of the criminal appeal lest we be accused of judicial interference.

Our concern is strictly informed by the gravity of the criminal charges and the colossal amounts of money, which may be natural or exaggerated, of which an average Tanzanian would have expected the DPP to be at the forefront, pulling the strings in this case in the public interest. Still, we are learning from the High Court ruling that the DPP was detached and disdainful of the topic to the extent he did not sanction the indictments, paving out a loophole that the convicts’ lawyers exploited to allow the acquittal to take place!

READ RELATED: The DPP Strikes Again! Unanswered Questions in a High-Profile Tanzanian Prosecutorial Powers Case.

At this stage, we may not ascertain whether the DPP did not approve the criminal indictments and whether that is material leading to the acquittals. It is a subject beyond the scope of this analysis till all legal reprieve by both parties has been exhaustively pursued. At this stage, we can only ask ourselves why the DPP would not appeal if he had sanctioned the prosecution.

If he did not play a part in leading to the commencement of the criminal prosecution, who authorised it, and that was proper? The public has a right to know, and the DPP will do us all well if he can clear the air, for we do not know which is which. We promise to revisit the matter no sooner than all legal avenues have been exhausted.

Another area that has smacked us with pessimism regarding white-collar crime is that charge sheets keep being changed until the actual costs the public thought were real are just buried under the clouds of endless rectifications. Our concern is why most framers of charge sheets keep varying the charges repeatedly when white-collar crimes are involved.

Our concern has always been the framers of charge sheets may be coming under political pressure to water down charge sheets to create ample room for acquittal solely based on a technicality that the charge sheet is designed to collapse under the machinations of self-inflicted mountains of technicalities.

The third worry is the harsh reality that the hush billions circled in the public gallery in the charge sheet were reduced to Tshs 103 Million, permitting tongue-wagging to fill the massive void of the diminished charges that convicted the now-freed top officials. Nobody knows what to believe about what took place. Were the billions real, or were they just one hundred million plus three?

When the charge sheet keeps assuming new shapes and nuances, it feeds conspiracy theorists with ample fodder to relay whatever information that their fertile imagination can dream up. A mutilated charge sheet leaves plenty of questions about why there is a hurry to frame up the charges when one knows criminal charges are timeless.

Why don’t the framers of the charge sheet get their job done without abseiling into objects of ridicule? Conspiracy theorists claim without evidence that the framers of the charge sheet were under political and financial pressure to dilute the original charge sheet. Such unverified accusations can only be possible when the acts of commission or omission of the office of the DPP entice such weird reasoning to surface.

So, Here’s What We Know

We first and foremost concede we know nothing about the technicalities of framing up a charge sheet, so we distance ourselves from conspiracy theories thrown in the public gallery. We see no evidence that political and inducement duress stoked the acquittals.

But we certainly know that presidential appointees are difficult, if not impossible, to bring to book. Why should presidential appointees be treated differently from the rest of society unless the aim is to shield them from criminal accountability?

Why does the acquittal of presidential appointees not be appealed unless the whole prosecution masquerade is willfully purposed and designed to shield presidential appointees from criminal prosecution? If this is true, and we are not confirming it in any way, we observe that “lack of public accountability” accelerates the looting of public coffers.

Unless everybody is equal under the eyes of the law, and nobody is given a kid glove treatment, we should expect thieving public servants to continue having a field day knowing that even if criminally indicted, ultimately, they will be acquitted because the whole system is such official graft-ridden that public service is a den of thieves, and everything else is deception!

Also Read Tanzania’s Criminal Justice System: Analysis of President Samia’s Commission Key Findings & Recommendations.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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