Mixed bag of President Magufuli’s 100 days in power

12Feb 2016
Attilio Tegalile
The Guardian
Mixed bag of President Magufuli’s 100 days in power

ONE hundred days after being sworn in as the President of the United Republic of Tanzania on November 5th 2015, Dr John Pombe Magufuli, is the proverbial talk of the town not only in Tanzania, but also beyond the country’s borders.

President Magufuli joined other Tanzanians to clean the nation

Before Magufuli’s arrival on the scene, Tanzania did not figure prominently in any of its neighbours’ media in their respective news bulletins. But that has since changed for a day hardly passes by without a story on what Magufuli would have done.

Magufuli’s stories usually range from fighting corruption to reducing government expenses and general waste. President Magufuli’s coverage in the news media has, however, not been confined to serious issues and hard work per se.

They have also had a tinge of humour, for instance demonstration from how to use a sewing machine to how he could one day be appointed by the Almighty God the President of Angels in the Here-after on account of the good work he had done for Tanzanians in the Here-before.

For those who have had the opportunity of seeing all the past four phase governments, Magufuli’s present 100 days have had the most positive impact compared to the first 100 days of the last four phases.

Perhaps with the exception of the first phase government which lived to promises it had made to the colonialists, that it would accomplish more than what they had done in over 70 years.

Ten years after independence, Dr Julius Nyerere invited the colonialists to Tanzania to see what the country had accomplished. Tanganyika had grown in size to include the isles and the new country was now called the United Republic of Tanzania.

From one engineer and one doctor at independence, ten years after Tanzania was teeming not only with engineers and doctors, but also lawyers and other professionals.

President Magufuli’s ‘acts in piercing’ what he describes as ‘boils’ has seen him nab tax evaders, something that has in turn led to the collection of over three trillion shillings in the last two months. Until November 2015, the Tanzania Revenue Authority has been collecting 900bn/- in revenue per month.

But following the president’s action against revenue pilferage through, among others, change of guard at the TRA and the Tanzania Port Authority, monthly revenue collection have risen to over 1.4trn/- per month.

With only thirty days in power, the president shocked and excited, in equal measure, Tanzanians when he directed the use of most of the money that had been donated by two national institutions for buying over 100 beds for use at Muhimbili National Referral Hospital’s maternity wing.

It would be recalled that on the second day after his swearing in at the Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam, President Magufuli had made an impromptu visit to the Ministry of Finance and Planning, TRA and Muhumbili Referral Hospital.

The president was shocked to see expectant mothers either sleeping on the floor or sharing beds at the maternity ward of the hospital. CRDB Bank and the NSSF had donated over 300m/- for use by the State House in Dar es Salaam in hosting a party for the newly elected members of parliament.

But if the president’s action at the State House had surprised Tanzanians, they would a few days later be shocked and excited, in equal measure, when he did something considered by some as unthinkable.

The president cancelled the country’s Independence Day celebrations, which fall on December 9th and directed that money which was to have been used to mark the occasion (usually through parades and receptions at the State House) be used in completing the four kilometer section on the Ali Hassan Mwinyi dual carriageway from Morocco to Mwenge.

As you read this article, the expansion of the road on the section to dual carriageway has already started to take shape. As expected, President Magufuli’s actions have drawn mixed feelings from the general public.

But many Tanzanians, including those who are not supporters of the ruling party CCM, have supported the president’s actions.

Others have however, criticized him, expressing their discomfort with what they see in the president as elements of dictatorial tendencies.

But given the extent the country had reached in the last three decades as a result of misrule by the past three governments, all under CCM, there was no way the president could have done what he has done without applying shock-therapy.

For the past three governments, and in particular the immediate previous one, had literally gone on leave, preaching rather than taking action with the prime minister of the immediate past government telling the world that the government could not deal with those who were involved in what came to be referred to as the EPA scandal because dealing with such men could destabilize the country!

Of course, the prime minister’s statement did not shock Tanzanians, this is because barely a few years back, his boss, the president, said he did not know why Tanzania was poor (despite its massive richness in natural resources that included all kind of minerals).

The president made the foregoing statement when he was responding to questions from the international media. But while President Magufuli has done well in his efforts to return the country back to where it should be, he has ruffled many a feather in the process.

And if he’s not careful he could end up undoing all the good things he has done. There is no area the president has failed to show leadership than in the realm of democracy, especially in his handling of the opposition. Initially, many political analysts believed that as a technocrat to the core, he would tread the political landmine carefully.

Unfortunately, he has not been cautious enough and that raises more questions than answers. Initially, nothing encouraged Tanzanians more than the statement he made immediately after being presented with a certificate for winning the Union presidency by the chairman of the National Electoral Commission, Judge (rtd) Damian Lubuva.

Dr Magufuli said he would treat equally all members and supporters of the ruling party and the opposition. But 90 plus days down the line the president has shown marked intolerance against the opposition and that is very worrying.

In fact, nothing exposed Dr Magufuli’s intolerance to the opposition more than the speech he delivered in Singida on February 5, 2016 during the celebration to mark 39 years since the founding of CCM after Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) amalgamated with the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) to form Chama cha Mapinduzi.

In the speech, the president said during his reign he’s going to ensure that Tanzanians completely wipe out, in their minds at least, opposition parties.

He said opposition parties that think they would one day take power in the country should simply forget about it because CCM would never hand power to such useless, good for nothing political parties (vyama hovyo hovyo).

Those who have followed closely his administration were not surprised by the statement, especially if you consider that his government has to date banned demonstrations by any opposition party.

A few days after the completion of the 2015 General Elections, Chadema had announced their plans to tour the entire country in order to thank Tanzanians for their support in the just ended election.

But no sooner had the statement been issued than the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, announced, during his visit to his constituency, that the government was not going to allow demonstrations and political rallies, and especially so, by the opposition as elections were now over.

The two words, ‘especially so’ are the author’s because since the announcement, the ruling party appear not to be affected by the prime minister’s ruling as rightly demonstrated by demonstrations and political meetings in Singida to mark CCM 39th anniversary.

During the just ended January 2016 parliamentary session in Dodoma, Mr Majaliwa said he had not banned demonstrations and political rallies by the opposition. The prime minister was responding to a question from a member of the opposition in House on his own ban on demonstrations and political meetings.

The prime minister said he had been misquoted by the media. However, political analysts were quick to remind the prime minister that had he been a mere member of parliament, his defense would have made sense.

Unfortunately he made the statement when he was already prime minister; that he should have known that as a prime minister he is an authority figure and whatever he says encompasses a directive for the entire country and not just his constituency.

Interestingly, a few days after the prime minister had defended himself in the House, his boss---the president--- would say what he said in Singida.

Before the president’s statement in Singida, there had been isolated utterances, especially during election campaigns late last year by some errant CCM leaders that Tanzania would never be handed over to the opposition through pieces of papers (read the ballot box).

Some CCM leaders in Zanzibar are also known to have made similar statements in the past. And when you combine such utterances with what President Magufuli said in Singida a few days ago, it’s difficult to ignore the importance of what he said.

The other thing that President Maguguli needs to make amends is in the realm of civility, especially when opposition parties are afflicted with deaths of their leaders.

A case related to this was the killing, allegedly by CCM members, of the Chadema Geita regional chairman, Mr Alphonce Mawazo. The president did not send any condolences to the family of the bereaved or even his political party, Chadema.

But instead, Tanzanians witnessed something that has never happened in the country’s political history, an attempt by the government through the use of the police to stop people and members of the opposition coalition, Ukawa, from paying their last respects to the slain leader!

Thanks to the High Court ruling, an appeal by Chadema on the matter was ruled in their favour, hence allowing the paying of last respects and final burial of the Chadema leader to take place.

The second incident that is similar to the Mawazo incident occurred a few days ago when a CUF councilor in Kagera Region was murdered, again, allegedly by people send by a member of the ruling party who had lost in the election against the CUF man.

And just like the Mawazo incident, the president was once again silent. One would have expected at least a condemnation by the government over such killings that appear to be political and are becoming fashionable lately.

Many right minded Tanzanians would like to believe that these killings are carried out by rogues, that they are not sanctioned by CCM. However, the foregoing ‘feelings’ can only be buttressed if top CCM leaders, and the president in particular, condemn them rather than remaining silent.

For the danger of remaining silent more often than not tend to draw unpalatable conclusions. And this is especially so when the president later issues the kind of statements he made in Singida. • AttilioTagalile is a journalist/author and media consultant and can be contacted through [email protected]