Messages on good governance paramount in mourning Mkapa

27Jul 2020
The Guardian
Messages on good governance paramount in mourning Mkapa

​​​​​​​FOR the second time in its history as an independent country, Tanzania is mourning the death of one among its foremost leaders and pointers to the sense of values or purpose in public affairs, in the wake of the passing of third-phase president Benjamin Mkapa.

After several days of viewing the casket containing his remains at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam, a portion of the national leadership will represent the nation in laying late head of state to rest at his home village Lupaso in Masasi District, Mtwara Region. It understandably came as a shock that the usually healthy retired president suddenly lost a battle against disease.

As many people have attested, Mkapa was a “father” of change in the country – or, more specifically, the kingpin of its modernisation process.

The more momentous changes of skipping structures that were no longer rhythmic with global conditions occurred during the second phase, which came under some criticism that chaos was being introduced in how the country’s economy and even mode of governing was being conducted.

That is a topic for another debate, but Mkapa brought in a much more orderly way of doing things, even if hectic economic activity was slowed down somewhat.

To be sure, while these controls were retained by and large as they were as the country moved from the third to the fourth phase presidency, the measure of change from the fourth phase to the fifth phase presidency was as momentous as it was in entering the third phase.

As usual, the balance of the issues is a matter of debate. But in either context the purpose of the changes and how far they succeeded is not at issue.

The Mkapa presidency ushered in enhanced discipline and better procedure in revenue collection and expenditure, and the fifth phase has solidified that legacy, curbing much of the laxity that remained in earlier governance reforms

There is always some disconnect between positive changes in economic life and positive changes in political life, where the mourning period has brought up renewed emphasis on governance probity and utmost fairness so that unity and harmony can be preserved.

Just before Mkapa’s passing, President Magufuli had emphasized that law-enforcement organs – and political parties – make an effort to make the upcoming General Election chaos-free. When he was president, and responding to criticism by some international organisations and aid agencies about corruption in contracts with foreign firms or aid agencies, then President Mkapa used an age-old aphorism, that ‘it takes two to tango.’

In other words, his answer to the criticism was that aid agencies or investors were part of the problem and it was not just a one-sided demand in the form of acceptance of bribes by public officials.

What Mkapa said was demonstrated during the stand-off between Acacia Mining and the Magufuli government, where it became clear that some state officials did not supervise the proper observation of contractual obligations on the part of the gold mining company.

Changes made in that regard and in various other aspects of governance are part of what can be termed capacity building – that the state is gradually capable of addressing some of the most formidable governance problems the country has faced since independence, as corruption is an intractable problem everywhere.

Progress has been achieved in that respect, while peace is maintained – and this is a sure source of pleasure as Mkapa is bid a final rest in peace.

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