|Meet whistleblower who paid through the nose|
February 19th, 2012
editor's note: the company at the center of this story is Barrick Gold
For two weeks, two weeks ago, we narrated, in these columns on how one foreign mining company had succeeded in getting rid of whistleblowers who have been reporting at home and abroad its environmental degradation.
But since whispers, call them rumours if you like, are made by people-that is, you and me, today we have allowed the sacked video cameraman to narrate his own story on why he was sacked by his employer who should have promoted him instead of doing what he did to him.
The road to my dismissal started when my advocacy work against environmental degradation and human suffering in the form of a documentary had reached the headquarters of the mining company abroad.
The documentary raised a lot of dust, especially in the mining company’s country of origin, hence forcing some people to take action.
That action would later take form of a delegation of a twelve-man team, seven from the United States and five from the mining company’s country of origin.
Members of a foreign religious organisation based in East Africa and whose country representative also happened to come from the mining company’s country of origin played a host to a delegation of interested party to the problem from the United States and the mining company’s country of origin.
What made this delegation quite significant was the fact that one of its members was a shareholder in the foreign mining company.
It is important to bear in mind that before the shooting of video documentary, the foreign mining company had painted rosy pictures back home that included, among others, taking care of the community living near its mines.
However, after watching the documentary from the comfort of their homes in the United States and the mining company’s country of origin, members of the delegation were so shocked that they decided that they would fly to Tanzania and tour all areas where environmental degradation are alleged to have taken place.
However, for members of the delegation, little did they know then that they were embarking not only on a very difficult mission, but they were also up against a tough, mafioso group.
Until then, we were quite sure that no one, including members of staff of the mining company, knew what was going on as far as planning of the delegation’s trip to Tanzania was concerned.
But we were wrong! For just when the delegation was about to arrive in Tanzania, I received a telephone call from a member of the mining company who requested me for the delegation’s itinerary!
And not knowing what to do, I referred him to my boss who was privy to what was going on.
How the mining company had come to know that I was somewhat connected to the delegation has continued to baffle me to date.
The delegation was supposed to have landed in Nairobi on May 30th 2010.
And on the following day, they were supposed to have flown to Tanzania through a local airline that operates in Kenya and Tanzania.
Everything had been organised to the minutest detail with all the flights, from abroad to Nairobi and from Nairobi to the north western part of Tanzania all in place.
Finally, members of the delegation arrived at the Nairobi airport as scheduled and spent a night in the city of the sun.
Their trip to the north western part of Tanzania was scheduled on the following day.
However, to the surprise of members of the delegation, their names were not in the early morning scheduled flight for Tanzania!
It was now the turn of the religious organisation’s country representative in Nairobi to swear to all his ancestors, that he had booked all members of the twelve-man delegation in the scheduled Tanzanian flight.
But that did not help! The airline however, promised to book members of the delegation on the following day’s flight.
Although the airline kept its promise but a lot of damage had already been done.
The delegation arrived in Mwanza on the second day and drove straight to a town that was over 100 kilometers from their destination where they were booked in a hotel.
However, on arrival at the hotel, they were told their rooms had been taken up after they had failed to arrive at the hotel as scheduled!
Interestingly, the hotel manager later offered to help in getting a hotel for the delegation.
However, I was against the move, but was ruled out by the wife of the religious organisation’s country representative who also happened to be our paymaster in the trip!
The hotel manager got us a very good hotel whose existence I had never known despite staying in the area for many years.
However, when we got to the hotel, two strange things happened.
One, the manager of the new hotel booked us in the second and third floors.
Secondly, instead of booking us in one lot, after every two or three rooms, he would leave a room or two empty, claiming that they had already been booked!
Later I told my guests to ensure that they locked their rooms with padlocks.
Some did, but others ignored my advice and the results were quite devastating!
For no sooner had we spent three hours in the hotel, than the following items were stolen, three ipods, two mackintosh computers, two still cameras, two video cameras and five hundred US dollars.
We reported the theft to the hotel manager but he simply refused to help!
At this point, we decided to report the matter to the police whose conduct was not different from that already exhibited by the hotel manager!
Finally, we decided to press the manager for more information relating to the people who had occupied other rooms close to ours.
We were shocked to learn that occupants of the rooms had paid for their rooms, but had not registered their names in the hotel’s register!
Fed up with what had befallen us, my guests decided that we should continue with what had brought them to Tanzania in the first place.
We therefore drove to where we could meet victims of environmental degradation, people who had themselves been affected by the mining company’s activities.
This particular visit had been organised for us by the mining company’s leadership.
But no sooner had we started asking leaders of the community questions on how they had been affected by the mining company’s activities than we realised they had been prepared by the mining company to say what they said.
We discovered whenever we cornered them with questions, they faultered, giving themselves to us!
It was clear to us that we were talking to paid-up people who were out to conceal the environmental damage perpetrated by the foreign mining company!
At this point, we abandoned the exercise, and I frantically went to work.
I got in touch with my people who had been directly affected by the mining company’s activities through the use of contaminated water for drinking and washing.
Some of these people had developed weird skin diseases, hence cutting down their life expectancy!
I would get in touch with them, one by one, through my mobile phone, tell them to come close to the road where we were driving through.
In that way, members of the delegation were able to talk to them.
Through such interviews, they were able to get the truth from a people who had gone through hell.
By then, most members of the delegation had realized the lies that they had been subjected to by their own mining company.
For instance, the roads we drove through were so bad that one of the members of the delegation would repeatedly tell his colleagues that “if the roads we have been driving through have been upgraded, then how did they look like before”!
According to members of the delegation, the foreign mining company had told members of parliament in its home country that it had taken care of roads close to its mines as part of its massive effort of giving back to the community!
After the end of the delegation’s tour in Tanzania, it was decided that in November 2010, I would travel to the company’s country of origin to make presentation over the environmental damage perpetrated by the company.
During my visit in that country, I would be availed the opportunity of addressing members of parliament in that country who have been very vocal over the mining company’s conduct in Tanzania.
But before my departure, on August 25th 2010, I received a letter from my employer that announced my dismissal!
Another man was therefore sent to the mining company’s country of origin to do what I was supposed to do, but this poor man knew absolutely nothing!
And that is how powerful some of these foreign mining companies are when you cross their paths!
As I grew up, I had read in foreign and local papers how foreign countries, especially in Latin America were so strong that they had even overthrown governments that had threatened their continued exploitation of mineral resources.
During the time, I had considered such stories nothing more than a child’s bed time story!
But now I have a different feeling, that what I read were not bed time children’s stories, but reality that was now staring hard on our nation’s face!
And whenever I reflect on my mind how names of members of that foreign delegation could simply disappear from a list of passengers of a reputable airline, I shudder at what awaits our nation!
Indeed, for a reputable airline to put its name on the line through denial of flight to an equally reputable delegation that includes a share holder of an international mining company, those behind such a scheme must have had their hands heavily oiled!
The question is, are we capable of reading the writing on the wall?