Censoring opposition speeches: Sugu walks out again

19Apr 2019
Polycarp Machira
The Guardian
Censoring opposition speeches: Sugu walks out again

A BITTER exchange of words flared in the National Assembly yesterday between Deputy Speaker Dr Tulia Ackson and the Shadow Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Joseph Mbilinyi, -

Joseph Mbilinyi.

forcing the cancellation of opposition speech on alternative budget estimates for the ministry, the second year in a row.

It all started just as Mbilinyi (Mbeya Urban—CHADEMA) was reading the opposition statement on the budget speech delivered by  the minister, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe when the deputy speaker asked him to omit words deleted by the Speaker’s Office in the original statement.

"Honorable Mbilinyi as you are aware some parts of your speech have been expunged as they contained un-parliamentary words. Read the new version," said the deputy speaker.

But the shadow minister responded that he did not have that version and the deputy speaker ordered the House clerk to give him a copy of the final statement that had several sections deleted.

When he got the copy, Mbilinyi started by thanking God but the deputy speaker interrupted, calling on him to read what is written in the booklet. "Please read what is in the booklet," she told the opposition lawmaker.

At this point the seemingly agitated shadow minister, popularly known for his hip hop stage name, Sugu, responded by complaining that there was a deliberate plan to stop him from reading the opposition statement. He said the opposition document was doctored by 80 percent.

But Dr Ackson said, "If you do not want to read the statement you can leave....you always leave without reading the statement." Mbilinyi then left the podium, amid boos from the opposition side of the House. This was a repeat of what happened last year when Mbilinyi protested the doctoring of his alternative speech, leading to it not being read and recorded.

The deputy speaker thereafter ordered that the opposition statement should not be taken into official parliamentary records, Hansard, “because the opposition leader did not state so.”

Earlier tabling the ministry’s estimates the minister asked the House to approve 30,879,483,000/- for the 2019/2020 financial year whereby 15,483,073,000/- is for salaries and 9,396,410,000/- for other charges while 6,000,000,000/- is the development budget.

The minister told MPs that Tanzania will in September host the regional East African Community Arts and Culture Festival (JAMAFEST), to provide a platform for showcasing culture as a primary catalyst to regional integration and sustainable development.

He said this year's festival with the theme, “Cultural Diversity: Key Driver to Regional Integration, Economic Growth and Promotion of Tourism" brings together regional cultural practitioners and administrators to celebrate the rich and diverse cultural heritage.

On achievements made during the past year, the minister listed six televisions stations, 15 radio channels and 72 online platforms as having been registered.

Dr Mwakyembe noted that as of last month there were 163 radio stations and 36 television stations countrywide, with online service platforms reaching 274.

At least 31 TV stations or 86 percent of the total are privately owned while government owns five TV stations, 14 percent of the total. The government owns ten radio stations, being six percent while the private own 153 stations,   94 percent of the total.

Reading the statement of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Services and Community Development, Deo Ngalawa (Ludewa, CCM) asked the government to raise the development budget for the ministry.