State withdraws protection notice

Historical and cultural buildings and monuments in Dar es Salaam can be demolished to pave the way for new development following the revocation of the government notice protecting them, The Citizen can reveal.

Iconic landmarks such as the Askari Monument, Old Post Office and Karimjee Hall are no longer protected against demolition after the government revoked the Antiquities Declaration of Conservation Areas Notice No. 2006.

The revocation comes in the backdrop of a demolition spree in which a number of historical buildings in the central business district have been bulldozed in recent years.

Structures that have been razed to the ground include MC George Building at the junction of Samora Avenue and Mkwepu Street, which was demolished in 2008.

The building was put up in 1901, and originally housed a police officers’ mess during German colonial rule.

It later served as the Tanzania head office of a German pharmaceutical company before housing the legendary Salamander Restaurant.

On February 20, 2007, the then Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, revoked the Antiquities Declaration of Conservation Areas Notice No. 2006, opening the door to the demolition of historical buildings and monuments.

Asked to explain the revocation when reached for comment yesterday, Prof Maghembe said it was a “collective” decision.

“It was a government decision, not my personal decision. I signed the notice because I was in the (Natural Resources and Tourism) docket at that time...it was purely a government decision,” he said.

Prof Maghembe said the government decided to revoke the protection of historical buildings and monuments to pave the way for the construction of high-rise structures that would help to boost economic growth.

“As you are aware, we are transforming from a poor country into a middle income nation, and this cannot be realised by keeping old buildings intact,” said Prof Maghembe, who is now the minister for Water.

The demolished buildings would be replaced by high-rise buildings that would speed up economic growth through the provision of various services, he said.
Mr John Kimaro, the Assistant Director for Conservation and Technology in the Antiquities Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, said political will to protect historical monuments was lacking.

“A country with no history does not deserve to be called a country. If we lose the history of Dar es Salaam future generations will point accusing fingers at us,” he told The Citizen last week.

He wondered why the Salamander building was hastily demolished in 2008 and yet no development had taken place at the site five years later.

Investigations by The Citizen have established that a building on Samora Avenue that housed the Dar es Salaam office of Angola’s first president, Agostinho Neto, during the southern African country’s independence struggle has also been earmarked for demolition.

Tanzania Publishing House was formerly a meeting point for southern African liberation leaders such as Neto and Mozambique’s Samora Machel.

Mr Kimaro said the demolition of historical buildings was likely to continue unabated since it “involves a great deal of dirty money”.

He said the Antiquities Act No. 10 of 1964 and Amendment Act No. 22 of 1979 both provided for the preservation and protection of sites and objects of national, archaeological, historical and cultural interest.

According to the 1964 law, a building, site or structure is declared a conservation area when it is a valuable national heritage, contains a homogeneous group of monuments, or has valuable national heritage for its historical, architectural, social or cultural value.

Mr Donatius Kamamba, the Director of Antiquities in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, says transformation of Tanzania’s economy was threatening heritage sites.

“As Tanzania creates a free market economy, the underlying value of heritage sites is endangered. The survival of our historical buildings and structures is a concern to all of us in Tanzania,” he says in a 48-page booklet titled Guidelines for the Conservation of Historical Buildings and Structures in Tanzania.

He says the buildings and structures are not only important as sources of inspiration, symbol and wonder, but also as an integral part of Tanzania’s cultural heritage.
Source: The Citizen, reported from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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