Samia Suluhu Hassan becomes the first female president in Tanzania taking over from President John Magufuli who died on 17 March 2021.
Born in 1960, she hails from Makunduchi, an old town on Unguja island, in Zanzibar. Her father was a teacher and her mother a housewife. After graduating from high school she studied public administration and later obtained a Masters in community economic development.
She began her political career in 2000 when she was elected as a special seat member in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. Special seats are reserved for Tanzanian women leaders under the country’s quota system.
She then served as the minister of gender and children in former Amani Karume’s government. Karume was the president of Zanzibar – an autonomous region of Tanzania – between 2000-2010. Hassan also served as the minister of youth employment, and of tourism in Karume’s cabinet.
Then in 2010, she was elected member of parliament for Makunduchi, sitting in the National Assembly of Tanzania, and was appointed minister of state for union affairs by President Jakaya Kikwete.
She rose to the national limelight when she was elected to serve as vice chairperson of the Constituent Assembly. The assembly was a body of stakeholders brought together in 2014 by President Kikwete to discuss Tanzania’s proposed new constitution. It was led by Chairperson Samuel Sitta, a former Speaker of the National Assembly.
The Constituent Assembly, which was dominated by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party was tasked to discuss and debate Tanzania’s draft constitution. Kikwete had initiated a constitutional review process in 2010 with the promise to have a new constitution through a popular process.
A new constitution has yet to be passed, with many in the establishment, including Hassan, preferring to maintain the status quo.
The Chama Cha Mapinduzi presidential nomination of 2015 was a tight contest. After the party’s National Executive Committee votes were counted, three candidates were selected; John Magufuli and two other women – Asha-Rose Migiro, a Tanzanian who had served as the United Nations deputy secretary general, and Amina Salum Ali – a Zanzibari who had served as permanent representative of the African Union to the United States.
In the end, John Magufuli was nominated as a compromise candidate. He was viewed as candidate who could walk the middle line in a party that had been divided by competing interests.
Because there were two female finalists during the nomination process, it was deemed appropriate for Magufuli to nominate a woman as a running mate at a time when the country was already making great strides towards gender inclusion. Five years earlier, in 2010, Anna Makinda had broken barriers by becoming the first female speaker of the National Assembly.
Magufuli went ahead and nominated Samia Suluhu Hassan as his running mate. With Magufuli’s victory in the 2015 general elections, Hassan became the first female vice-president.
As vice-president, Hassan served as the principal assistant to the president. Her role should have been largely ceremonial. But when she assumed office, she represented Magufuli at many international meetings and engagements. These included the East African Community and Southern African Development Community summits.
This was because the late president rarely traveled abroad. As a result she has received immense international exposure, a factor that could influence how she governs going forward. An expected impact of this exposure will be to redress the international isolation Tanzania experienced during the Magufuli administration.
A reconciliatory figure
She was the most senior government official who visited him, which is worth mentioning because Lissu had blamed the government for the attempt on his life.
Hassan conveyed Magufuli’s greetings. Her visit was symbolic because it sent a message of goodwill. It was an attempt to bridge the growing antagonism between the government and the opposition. Her candour and grace as she leaned in to speak to Lissu on his hospital bed reminded Tanzanians of the value of humanity and the true spirit of Tanzanian camaraderie.
She has been described as compassionate, rational and calm -– attributes that are a far departure from her previous boss.
Healing and unity
In the six years that Magufuli was president, the country became very polarized and divided.
His handling of the opposition and the COVID-19 pandemic only served to sow more discord among the Tanzanian people. And under Magufuli, Tanzania became increasingly isolated internationally.
Hassan’s international exposure could offer her the kind of worldview that is required to put Tanzania back on the diplomatic map. In her address after being sworn in as president on 19 March 2021, she spoke on the need to bury differences and show solidarity as a nation.
Hassan’s candour and rationality could be vital in moving the country forward. She should move in quickly to change the country’s stance on COVID-19 and reach out to the opposition and other stakeholders so as to build an inclusive national dialogue.
John Joseph Pombe Magufuli was a man who deftly played the long political game. He was nevertheless a puzzle both to Tanzanians and the world.
When he first entered the presidency in 2015, he gained worldwide acclaim for his no-nonsense approach to fighting corruption and imprudent government spending. But as he settled into office, his true political colours - the authoritarian and “the bulldozer” of human rights - showed up.
He was born in 1959 in Tanzania’s Chato district in the Lake Victoria zone, and was only 2 years old when Tanzania got independence in 1961.
After attaining his basic education he trained as a teacher at Mkwawa College of Education, Iringa in central Tanzania, and became a secondary school science teacher. Magufuli then obtained a degree in education science from the University of Dar-es-Salaam in 1988.
The following year he was employed as an industrial chemist at Nyaza Cooperative remaining there until 1995. He then ran for the Chato parliamentary seat and won.
In 1995 President Benjamin Mkapa, who passed away in 2020, appointed him deputy minister for works, transport and communication. Magufuli drove an ambitious road building project, earning himself the nickname, ‘the bulldozer’. He served in Cabinet in different portfolios until 2015 when he ran for presidency.
The bulldozer moniker
Throughout his 20 years as a cabinet minister he was known to be a hard worker. He also kept a corruption-free record, a rare feat given the portfolios he was responsible for. As minister for works between 2010 and 2015, he built a road network connecting many parts of the country and a new rapid bus system in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital.
During these two decades he wasn’t associated with any major corruption. This is despite the fact that infrastructure projects, which often require huge investments spread over time, are generally associated with corruption. Also, Tanzania was plagued by major corruption scandals between 2005 and 2015.
Magufuli’s clean record, and his reputation for getting things done, became useful during the 2015 general election campaign. He promised to fight corruption, discipline the civil service, and create employment for the youth.
But the 'bulldozer’ moniker went on to haunt him as he increasingly began to be seen as the man who bulldozed human rights.
Magufuli’s rise to power
In June 2015, four months before election day, Magufuli was not seen as the Chama cha Mapinduzi party’s strongest candidate. The front runner had been Edward Lowassa, who had served as prime minister for three years under Mkapa’s successor, Jakaya Kikwete. Lowassa was forced to resign after being caught in a corruption scandal. Magufuli eventually won the nomination, which came as a surprise to some within his party.
Mkapa quietly pushed the party to nominate Magufuli. The former president and other party elders were for the first time advising the ruling party’s central committee on the nomination of the presidential candidate. The “bulldozer” went on to become Tanzania’s fifth president.
And two years into Magufuli’s first term, Mkapa publicly gave his performance a thumbs up.
Two factors appear to have been critical to Magufuli’s nomination by the Chama cha Mapinduzi and his rise to the presidency.
Two, he was not affiliated within any factions within the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi. After Lowassa was forced to resign as prime minister in 2008 after a fraud case, sharp divisions emerged between Chama cha Mapinduzi members who supported him and those who supported then president Jakaya Kikwete. Magufuli remained neutral and that worked in his favour.
Throughout his political career before the presidency, Magufuli appeared to eschew party politics. As a minster under Mkapa’s and Kikwete’s administrations, he focused on work, not party politics. This - plus his clean governance record - made him the go-to-guy when his party needed a presidential candidate with a clean record and who was not aligned with any party faction.
Back in 2015, when he was first elected president, Magufuli earned praise nationally and internationally. “What would Magufuli do” became a catch phrase to compare him with underperforming leaders in the region. However, after less than a year in office his authoritarianism side began to show.
He spent most of his first term cracking down on the opposition and cementing the ruling party’s power position. Over the years he has turned into a full-blown populist, claiming that he has the people’s interests at heart. But his subsequent actions have called these claims into question. This included tightening the noose on the media, as well as aggressive action against opposition figures, a rise in arbitrary arrests and crackdown on civil society.
More recently, his COVID denialism has been well documented.
He became more focused on cementing his power and less concerned with his election promises. By the end of his first term in 2020, there was still much left to be done, including completing construction on a speed railway and hydroelectric dam.
Regardless, and despite a flawed election, he was re-elected in October 2020. The election was marked with violence and a systematic crackdown on the opposition. As he began his second term, there were questions about what kind of legacy he would leave.
When speaking of his legacy, one must start with the Magufuli’s effect on Tanzania’s economy. There are mixed feelings about his economic performance. While some assessed him positively others underscored the negative impact of his administrative style.
More recently, his denial of the COVID-19 pandemic as straight out of his nationalistic and populist playbook. And the state violence that surrounded 2020’s general election will forever be a stain on his legacy.
As a result Magufuli will be remembered for rolling back Tanzania’s democratic gains, making the country an unwelcome investment destination and denying the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tanzania's President John Magufuli has died aged 61, the country's vice-president has announced.
He died on Wednesday from heart complications at a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Samia Suluhu Hassan said in an address on state television.
Magufuli had not been seen in public for more than two weeks, and rumours have been circulating about his health.
Opposition politicians said last week that he had contracted Covid-19, but this has not been confirmed.
Magufuli was one of Africa's most prominent coronavirus sceptics, and called for prayers and herbal-infused steam therapy to counter the virus.
"It is with deep regret that I inform you that today... we lost our brave leader, the president of the Republic of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli," Vice-President Hassan said in the announcement.
She said there would be 14 days of national mourning and flags would fly at half mast.
According to Tanzania's constitution, Ms Hassan will be sworn in as the new president and should serve the remainder of Magufuli's five-year team which he began last year.
Magufuli was last seen in public on 27 February, but Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa insisted last week that the president was "healthy and working hard".
He blamed the rumours of the president's ill-health on "hateful" Tanzanians living abroad.
But opposition leader Tundu Lissu told the BBC that his sources had told him Magufuli was being treated in hospital for coronavirus in Kenya.
Magufuli declared Tanzania "Covid-19 free" last June. He mocked the efficacy of masks, expressed doubts about testing, and teased neighbouring countries which imposed health measures to curb the virus.
Tanzania has not published details of its coronavirus cases since May, and the government has refused to purchase vaccines.
On Monday, police said they had arrested four people on suspicion of spreading rumours on social media that the president was ill.
"To spread rumours that he's sick smacks of hate," Mr Majaliwa said at the time.
Elections are the quintessential arbiter of political contestation within democratic countries. This is a path Tanzania has followed for the past 25 years, since it first held its first multiparty elections in 1995.
But elections are only part of the institutional fabric of a democracy. And a democracy is only as good as its institutions – collectively.
Last week, Tanzania completed its sixth cycle of multiparty elections. The country’s dominant ruling party – Chama cha Mapinduzi – was declared the winner by a landslide. This time around, Magufuli won a highly suspect 84% against 13% for Tundu Lissu, leader of the opposition Chadema party. Lissu had only recently returned from Belgium to contest the polls after surviving an assassination attempt three years ago.
Chama cha Mapinduzi, having won all previous elections, has governed within a multiparty dispensation for 25 years. But this level of electoral blowout is unprecedented.
While the quality of elections should improve with every election cycle, this has not been the case for Tanzania. The country’s recent poll should be viewed in the context of flawed democracies that go through the motions of political contestation without fully embracing freedom, fairness, and transparency.
This electoral cycle demonstrated a fundamental weakness of democratic politics in flawed democracies – the superficial and instrumentalist practice of democracy without the intrinsic belief in the value system that democracy entails.
Democratic transition is admittedly a long and winding road. In Tanzania, progress has been achieved in some areas areas like corruption, poverty alleviation, reining in waste and bloated bureaucracy, but in others there is clear evidence of regression. Since Magufuli came to power, there have been repeated attacks on civil and human rights, contracting of the political space, and diminishing of the opposition’s role as a counter balance to the status quo.
Flaws in the system
A number of developments point to deteriorating democratic health in Tanzania.
Unlike the 2015 elections, this round of elections has been characterised by controversy. Most baffling was the arrest of the opposition’s presidential candidate in Zanzibar a day before the elections. This was not only unethical, but went against the common courtesy that should be extended to a senior political leader. He was then released without charge. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous Tanzanian archipelago off the coast of East Africa, which elects its own president on Tanzania’s election day.
On top of this, there was growing evidence this time round that those responsible for being umpires in the election had gone rogue. Electoral commissions are considered critical to the effective functioning of the electoral process. How they perform determines the acceptance and legitimacy of the outcome.
This is so because the election commission is not only appointed by the president, but the commissioners’ security of tenure also depends fully on his confidence.
Financially, they are dependent on the executive for budget support and execution of their mandate.
The opposition has viewed the commission as partisan due to the way it managed the 2015 elections but even more so in how it handled the latest one.
One of the accusations levelled against it was that it suppressed opposition candidates by imposing undue requirements for their formal registration and in places disqualifying their candidates on whimsical claims while clearing ruling party candidates with questionable character.
The commission even banned Lissu from campaigning while leaving Magufuli unencumbered.
This raised questions about its neutrality in managing the electoral process.
Equally, while the police should be apolitical, the Tanzania police force was used as the ruling party’s attack dog to intimidate, arrest and harass the opposition. This, ultimately, skewed the election in favour of the ruling party.
A number of challenges persist in achieving substantive progress in democratic transition in the country.
First, as long as there is a weak institutionalisation of democratic norms, the ability to subvert democratic practice will remain. Going forward, civil and political rights and freedoms ought to be a central pillar of Tanzania’s election transitions. For instance, the right to appeal the outcome of the presidential election needs to be enshrined in the constitution.
Second, the politicisation of institutions of the state, especially those charged with legal and exclusive use of force like the military and police, are detrimental to the health of Tanzania’s political system. Institutions need to serve the state and not the political elite.
Third, a legitimate electoral process and outcome is central to political power contestation and periodic change of governments. This means that Tanzania’s National Electoral Commission should be beyond reproach. Its credibility and independence depends on how it’s constituted and appointed. The president should not have full control over the comings and goings at the electoral commission.
Fourth, freedom of association, of assembly and speech are corner stones of any democracy. The ability of citizens to freely assemble and speak about matters of public importance cannot be compromised nor subjected to the interests of the political class. As long as Magufuli and his ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi continue to believe in unfettered government, any democratic progress that Tanzania has made over the past 25 years will be eroded.
The October elections have not moved the country’s democratic needle forward. Rather, they have highlighted the fundamental flaws of a political system and political class bent on retaining power at all costs.
About 29 million Tanzanians head to the polls on Wednesday to elect new leaders with the world watching the big race pitting the opposition's Tundu Lissu against President John Magufuli.
In his address to the nation on Tuesday, President Magufuli urged Tanzanians to turn out in large numbers to exercise their democratic right, despite the arrest of opposition politicians in Zanzibar.
"Our campaigns have been conducted in an environment of peace and tranquillity," said the President. "Our security agencies did a commendable job," he added.
In Zanzibar, the main opposition party said Tuesday three people had been killed by police on the archipelago's island of Pemba, as clashes erupted ahead of Tanzania's elections.
Police fired teargas and live rounds, and brutally beat a young man in the opposition stronghold of Garagara as security forces began voting a day before presidential and parliamentary elections.
The opposition believes the special day of early voting is a ploy to steal the election on an island with a history of contested polls, and vowed they would try and vote on the same day.
Violence erupted on Pemba, an opposition stronghold, as the army distributed ballots which opposition supporters believed were pre-marked.
"Verified reports from Pemba in Zanzibar indicate that three citizens have been shot dead by the police using live ammunition," read a statement from the opposition ACT-Wazalendo (Alliance for Change and Transparency) party.
However, police dismissed the allegations. "We have not received any reports about such deaths and we do not expect anything of that nature," Inspector-General of Police Simon Sirro told reporters.
Speaking in Dar es Salaam, he said police were holding 42 people in Zanzibar over allegations of attacking officers distributing ballot boxes.
African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat pleaded for peace and called for credible and inclusive elections.
"The chairperson calls for all stakeholders, political parties and their supporters to participate in the voting process peacefully and refrain from any acts of violence. He further urges the authorities to ensure a conducive environment to enable citizens to cast their votes in a safe and peaceful manner," Mr Faki's spokesperson said in a statement.
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan will lead a team of observers from the AU, while ex-Burundi President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya will lead 59 monitors from the East African Community.
The EAC will deploy teams in Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Lindi, Mtwara, Dodoma, Mbeya, Kigoma, Singida, Kilimanjaro, Morogoro and Mwanza regions and Zanzibar's twin Islands of Pemba and Unguja.
The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi has been in existence, and in power, since 1977, becoming Africa's second-longest ruling party. Although there are 15 presidential candidates this time, President Magufuli's strongest challenge comes from Lissu, even though he is expected to be re-elected.
But some observers have already found the electoral process skewed in favour of the CCM. "It is difficult to guarantee electoral justice in Tanzania in light of the prevailing legal and constitutional framework and context," the Tanzania Elections Watch,a virtual group of experts on the polls co-chaired by former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and Ugandan legal experts, Frederick Ssempebwa and Ms Alice Mogwe, said.
"Ensuring electoral justice will require significant constitutional and legal reforms for which there has so far been no political will to embark on." Ahead of the polls, the government has been accused of either passing laws that impede fairness or retaining policies that favour CCM.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) has a final say on presidential election results and no court challenge is allowed.
"It is not to say that an election becomes free and fair because of the positive comments of the observers. We do not think this election will be free and fair, not even if the opposition wins, against all odds. What we need are conditions of good governance in the entire election season," Prof Ssempebwa said on Thursday.
The NEC has accredited some 96 local and foreign organisations eligible for observer status, but it excludes major players like the Catholic Church and rights watch groups.
This will be first exercise since multiparty democracy with no support from the UNDP, after Dar refused to admit an assessment mission from the global agency.
"When we shut down political space, when we shut down civil space, we risk delegitimising those who govern us," argued Donald Deya, the CEO of the Pan-African Lawyers Union, warning the restrictions could fuel violence.
Before the heroic return of opposition figure, Tundu Lissu, in late July 2020, Tanzania’s political landscape lacked the exuberance and ebullience that comes with an election season.
Lissu’s return reignited the hopes of a despondent opposition that had been subdued by the oppressive and restrictive political environment during President John Magufuli’s five-year term.
Lissu has been active in politics for the last two decades. He was elected to parliament on a Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Party for Democracy and Progress) ticket in 2010.
A firebrand lawyer and politician, he is known to hold the government accountable. He has questioned retrogressive laws, mining legislation, government procurement, government corruption, and the demand for a new constitution among others.
Lissu has been a constant critic of Magufuli. In 2017, he survived an attempted assassination while on official parliamentary duty. He has attributed the attempt on his life to the Magufuli administration. While he was abroad for treatment he was stripped of his Parliamentary seat.
Tanzania goes to the polls in late October with the dominant ruling party, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution) and Magufuli, as favourites.
Background to the Elections
The general election will be Tanzania’s fifth since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in the early 1990s.
Since then, the country has been ruled by the dominant Chama Cha Mapinduzi party. There have been significant gains by the opposition parties over the years. Nevertheless, Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s mass mobilisation and internal organisation has seen it strengthen its grip on power. The party has also relied on its incumbency, resource advantages and patronage politics to strengthen itself and weaken the opposition.
In the last general election in 2015, a united opposition coalition made significant gains. It garnered close to 40% of the presidential vote share. Chama Cha Mapinduzi nominated little known candidate John Magufuli ahead of other popular candidates.
Ever since his election the world has tried to understand Magufuli. He has been the subject of immense academic discussion ranging from his personal idiosyncrasies, to style of governance, and approach to national development.
I argue that he needs to be understood at both the domestic and international levels.
At the domestic level he has been praised for his war on corruption, rapid infrastructure developments, fiscal discipline, and concern for the downtrodden.
The president makes frequent visits to various parts of the country. He interacts and engages with the public on their issues. Very often he delivers instant remedies. This is something that has earned him the populist tag.
Internationally, Magufuli is read as an isolationist. He has shunned the global community in an approach driven by his nationalistic and anti-Western rhetoric.
Western governments have criticised Magufuli for Tanzania’s deteriorating human rights and shrinking democratic space.
Chances for the opposition
Opposition parties very often form alliances when competing against a powerful ruling party.
In the 2015 elections, a few opposition parties came together under the agenda for a new constitution. They fronted one candidate to challenge the ruling party at the presidential and parliamentary level.
Under the umbrella, Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi (Coalition of Defenders of the People’s Constitution), four opposition parties made significant electoral inroads but still couldn’t challenge Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s dominance. They were Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo, the Civic United Front, National Convention for Construction and Reform – Mageuzi, and the National League for Democracy.
This year, the opposition is less organised and relatively weakened by the Magufuli administration. But Lissu’s nomination as the main opposition presidential candidate has given Tanzania’s democracy renewed impetus. This comes after a torrid five years during which political party rallies were banned. Lissu’s survived assassination embodies the opposition resilience.
During his medical recuperation in Europe, he embarked on an international tour speaking about what had happened to him and castigating the Magufuli administration. These media appearances gave him massive global exposure.
Having nominated and declared their presidential candidates, the two leading opposition parties, Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo and Alliance for Change and Transparency will most likely enter a gentleman’s agreement going into the election. The Alliance’s nominee is former foreign minister Bernard Membe.
During their respective party conventions in August 2020, both reiterated the need for a united opposition to challenge Chama Cha Mapinduzi and Magufuli.
Issues for the Elections
Magufuli goes into the election with a good development track record. In July, the World Bank announced that Tanzania’s economy had been upgraded from low to lower—middle income status. This development came five years ahead of earlier projections.
For the Magufuli government, middle-income status means that it can access international credit markets. The president will also bank on his successes in the war on corruption and his efforts to streamline the civil service.
While the economic numbers look good, the opposition has criticised the government’s lack of investment in human resources.
The government’s repressive legislation, and the curtailing of media and individual freedoms has cast the Magufuli administration in the worst possible light. The administration has been accused of human rights abuses including the arbitrary disappearance and jailing of dissidents as well as curtailing civil society space.
The opposition is bound to capitalise on these issues during the campaigns. It has also called for the electoral commission to be reformed, stating that it is not independent but structured in a way that favours the ruling party.
Elections and COVID-19
Tanzania will go into the elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The president, in June declared that the country was COVID-19 free.
The major concern will be reduced external election observation.
Political temperatures will rise as the elections draw closer. And the government will likely crackdown on the opposition. The elections will be a watershed moment for Tanzania as its democracy has been in retreat for the past five years.
A strong opposition performance in the elections, especially at the parliamentary level, will be crucial in building a strong and viable democracy in Tanzania.
One of the main points of discussion around the various responses to the COVID-19 pandemic is governance. Different countries have reacted to the pandemic in different ways. These differences are informed by varying styles of leadership and governance around the globe.
Countries with open and transparent governing styles have taken a more hands-on approach by engaging diverse stakeholders. Scholars who examined the COVID-19 responses in China, Japan and South Korea, for example, found that there was systematic evidence that different governance decisions led to different results.
In the case of Tanzania, I argue that COVID-19 has revealed, rather than informed, the governance style under the current administration.
tackling a social calamity is not like fighting a war, which works best when a leader can use top-down power to order everyone to do what the leader wants — with no need for consultation.
In line with this thinking, being transparent and engaging diverse groups, including both loyalists and critics, is crucial for governments in the fight against the virus.
In Tanzania, President John Magufuli has taken the opposite view. He has framed COVID-19 as a war and not a health calamity requiring scientific consultation. As a result the handling of the pandemic has been at the whim of the president.
Since Magufuli expressed his doubts on the professionalism of the national laboratory, no more updates on COVID-19 have been made. It’s no longer easy to tell if data being released by the government is grounded in science, or whether it is simply that the president wants lower figures reported.
Magufuli’s COVID-19 response is typical. He is a president who has always taken an idiosyncratic view of leadership. Since his election in 2015, he has acted unilaterally. This has divided the country, while consolidating power in the presidency. Even his own ruling party has become a casualty of his autocratic style of leadership.
Idiosyncratic response to COVID-19
Magufuli has downplayed the pandemic’s threat and encouraged the use of local and home remedies such as drinking ginger and lemon tea, and steam therapy as a way to prevent infection.
This statement marked the end of the health minister’s daily updates on the country’s COVID-19 response. It was followed by a presidential proclamation that that God was answering the prayers of Tanzanians against the pandemic.
The president then appointed a new deputy health minister, probably because the previous one had questioned the use of steaming therapy to manage the virus.
Two weeks earlier, the president had appointed a new Constitutional and Legal Affairs minister, following the sudden death of his predecessor. The new minister was given the unusual task of investigating the activities of the national laboratory and its handling of COVID-19 testing.
These appointments give the real impression that loyalty to the president is very important in Tanzania. Dissenters are not tolerated. It’s no surprise that the official leader of opposition in parliament was rebuffed when he extended an offer to work with the government to fight the virus.
Civil society organisations have also been sidelined. But faith-based organisations have been won over by the government’s decision to keep places of worship open. Religion has been framed as a more appropriate response to COVID-19 than science.
History of intransigence and excesses
In 2017, Magufuli banned pregnant school girls from continuing school despite calls to the contrary. As a result the World Bank delayed the release of a $500 million education loan.
Eventually, Magufuli bowed to the pressure and lifted the ban.
Another example of Magufuli’s intransigence was his reaction to a planned countrywide protest organised by the opposition Chadema party. The police threatened to use force to stop citizens from participating. Eventually, the opposition called off the demonstration after faith leaders and civil society called for dialogue.
To date, there has not been any dialogue between the government and Chadema.
The absence of dialogue, and discrimination against Chadema and other opposition parties, has led to further polarisation between the Magufuli administration and dissenters.
The state response to COVID-19 is well within Magufuli’s playbook. He acts unilaterally, while polarising the nation and consolidating power in the presidency. This is often to the detriment of the Chama cha Mapinduzi ruling party. Power is centralised in the executive. Party organs and members do not have the agency to hold the president to account.
The executive’s autocracy has forced the opposition party to strengthen its institutions from the ground up. It now appears that Chadema is becoming a stronger party institutionally. In response, the ruling party has resorted to using force to maintain its grip on power.
To understand how Magufuli centralised power, one structural move he took in the beginning of his administration is illustrative. He removed the Regional Administration and Local Governments office from the office of the prime minister and put it in the office of the president.
The office is responsible for administering education, health, and development projects within local districts across the country.
Thus, local government matters are reported directly to the president’s office and are managed from the very core of the executive branch. This structural change has diverted revenue collection to the central government. The president has also used local government political appointees to silence dissenters.
It is apparent, therefore, that he will decide whether cases of COVID-19 in Tanzania have declined or increased, no matter what the science says.
The real fate of the country, however, is in the hands of Tanzanians. Only they can take their power back.
Big Brother Africa winner, Idris Sultan is facing cyberbullying charges for laughing at an old picture of President John Magufuli.
His lawyer Benedict Ishabakaki told BBC that the 2014 Big Brother Africa winner is accused of contravening the Cybercrimes Act 2015 against cyberbullying.
The law states: “A person shall not initiate or send any electronic communication using a computer system to another person with intent to coerce, intimidate, harass or cause emotional damage.”
If convicted of the charges levelled against him, Idris faces paying a fine of not less than Tsh5 million($2,161.21) or imprisonment for a term of not less than three years or both.
According to Ishabaki, the charges facing Idris stem from a video he recently shared laughing at an old photo of Magufuli.
“In short, the police claim Idris used the internet to harass the president,” he said.
Idris who also doubles as a comedian was arrested on May 19 after heeding summons from the police but is yet to be arraigned in court.
According to Idris’ lawyer, their request for bail was denied as police said they needed him in custody while they follow up on leads.
Tanzania expects to raise cashew nuts production by 33.5% in the year to September 2020, helped by favourable weather conditions and increased plantings, its agriculture minister said on Saturday.
Output in 2019/2020(October-September) is seen reaching 300,000 tonnes, up from the 225,000 tonnes produced in the 2018/2019 season.
"We expect to get a bigger harvest in the coming season, with our cashew nut production likely to rise to more than 300,000 tonnes," the minister, Japhet Hasunga, told Reuters.
"This forecast of increased output is attributed to good weather, widespread availability of farming inputs and increased plantings."
Last year, the government blocked traders from buying the crop from farmers after they could not meet the minimum indicative prices set by the president, and bought the entire crop itself.
President John Magufuli had ordered a 94 percent hike in prices, arguing that farmers were receiving too little for the most valuable of Tanzania's crop exports.
He then deployed the army to collect the entire crop of over 200,000 tonnes of cashew nuts from farmers.
But in November he sacked two ministers, saying they had failed to secure buyers.
Hasunga told Reuters that the government had eventually sold the 2018/2019 crop to a Vietnamese firm, but would allow private traders to resume buying in 2019/2020.
Tanzania is starting the process of building the fourth largest hydro dam in Africa and the ninth largest in the world.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli is to lay the foundation stone for the construction of Stiegler’s Gorge hydroelectric power project.
The project according to government officials will cost $3 billion. The 2,115 megawatts hydroelectric dam when completed will produce 5,920GWh of power annually.
The project was an original idea of Tanzania’s founding President Julius Nyerere. It was abandoned due to financial and environmental concerns but the project is back on. Current president, Magufuli is however committed to industrializing his country with such projects.
The project is part of Tanzania’s power master plan, to interconnect the grids of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia. The government’s plan is to execute such industrial projects to alleviate constant power outages hampering the manufacturing sector.
But there are concerns from environmentalists who say the dam is situated in middle of Selous Game Reserve. The reserve is the main elephant sanctuary in Tanzania and a World Heritage Site.
There are fears the dam will destroy wildlife habitat. Tanzania is part of some East African countries trying to ensure that they have enough power generation capacities. Kenya is now home to Africa’s biggest wind power plant. The plant in the Marsabit County is to provide nearly a fifth of the country’s energy needs.
The project is to support the Kenyan government’s commitment to increase electricity generation to 5,000W.