Vodacom Faces Massive $1 Million Payment Demand from Tanzanian Journalist Erick Kabendera

Erick Kabendera

Erick Kabandera, a freelance investigative journalist hailing from Tanzania, is currently seeking compensation of 1,000,000 US dollars from Vodacom Tanzania Plc, a branch of the UK’s Vodacom Group. This claim is based on his allegation that the company assisted the authoritarian government in his arrest back in 2019.

Mr. Kabendera was abducted and arbitrarily detained for 7 months and forced to enter a plea deal.

He had been charged with money laundering, tax evasion and leading organized crime. These offences are not bailable.

Kabendera was a known critic of the government who ultimately paid the high price for his articles criticizing the economy, the government and corruption, and fell a victim of the late president Magufuli’s media crackdown.


Dar es Salaam court sentenced Erick Kabendera to a three-month jail term or the option of a fine, equivalent to about $74,110, on two counts of failure to pay tax, and another $44,000 for money laundering, all amounting to about $118,110.

In October 2019, he petitioned the Director of Public Prosecution to initiate the plea bargain process, a move Amnesty International believes was borne out of his desperation to end his suffering at Segerea Prison. His lawyer said his health had deteriorated dramatically since he was incarcerated. He developed difficulties in breathing and suffered paralysis in his right foot.

Kabendera’s mother died while he was in custody shortly after she was filmed pleading with President John Magufuli to let her son free.

At the time of his arrest, Mr Kabendera’s ailing mother was living with him.


Through his lawyer Peter Madeleka, the journalist has given the communications firm 14 days to pay him or face a lawsuit.

In the letter seen by Kenya Insights, the journalist says Vodacom Tanzania played a crucial part in his abduction by laying a trap for the police leading to his arrest.

The letter outlays how the company conspired with the police:

“On the 27% July 2019, at 3:00 pm, our client turned on his mobile phone after turning it off the previous night, only to find out that it had lost network connectivity. He borrowed another phone and called the service provider to inquire about the circumstances which led to the service provider suspending services without a prior warning. A Vodacom customer care representative informed our client that, our client’s mobile phone number had technical challenges that required him to report to the nearby customer care centre at Tegeta. He asked the representative to explain the problem to him before going to the centre, but she refused, stating that it was a “sensitive matter” that required him to go there physically. However, He was hesitant to go because there had been numerous cases of people being kidnapped or arrested after visiting the customer care centre since 2016.”

“On Monday, 29 July 2019, at around 10:00 am, our client called customer care again to complain that he needed to withdraw money from his mobile wallet to buy medicine for his sick mother. The customer care representative who attended him, asked him to wait until she consulted her senior manager. She returned a few minutes later and explained that his case was very sensitive and beyond their ability to resolve. They insisted that he should report to their Mlimani City offices that morning.”

“Our Client mobile phone abruptly began functioning at 3:00 pm on the
29th July 2019. The Vodacom customer care representative asked him to

For it’s role in enabling the arrest of the journalist, Vodacom came under harsh criticism from human rights organizations that accused them of subverting democracy in Tanzania.

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