PRESIDENT MAGUFULI -THE FIRST SIX MONTHS

by David Brewin

Selection of newspapers from Aug 30th, some referring to the planned Chadema protests on 1st September (images from millardayo.com)

Selection of newspapers from Aug 30th, some referring to the planned Chadema protests on 1st September (images from millardayo.com)

Many commentators have been expressing their views on the perfor­mance of President Magufuli during his first hundred days in office. There is widespread agreement that his crusade against corruption and related evils was overdue and that the President has become a popular personality both inside and outside Tanzania.

There has been no let up in the actions being taken against corruption. According to ‘The Africa Report’, one young lady rebutted the advances of a civil servant by saying, in a political cartoon: “Sorry, I don’t date government guys any longer. There was a time, when dating officials, especially those within the Tanzania Revenue Authority and Tanzania Ports’ Authority, was worth something in the bars of Dar es Salaam….. But since John Magufuli took up the presidency in November things have changed.”

Cuts announced
Drastic cuts were announced in the ‘Estimates of Public Expenditure for Consolidated Fund Services’ in the next financial year. This includes the following:
. the State House budget will drop from TSh 20.6 billion approved for the current financial year to TSh 15.0 billion;
. costs related to rehabilitation and other civil works were slashed from TSh 2.22 billion in the current budget to TSh 372 million;
. expenditure for basic salaries of pensionable posts were decreased from TSh 4.35 billion to TSh 3.51 billion;
. the budget for foreign training dropped from TSh 3.47 million to TSh 1.25 million;
. the budget for routine maintenance of buildings dropped from the TSh 1.46 billion to TSh 800 million;
. the budget for in-country travel will fall from TSh 1.36 billion to TSh 802 million; and
. the recurrent expenditure for the Vice President’s office dropped from TSh 31.5 billion to TSh 9.41 billion.

Moving to Dodoma
After little positive action by the government for the last 40 years the new government has let it be known that it wants to fully move its seat of operations from Dar to Dodoma by 2020. The Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, announced that he would move even sooner, by September 2016, and called on other ministers to do likewise.

Transferring staff
In a move to reduce corruption the government has planned to transfer all immigration officials at both main airports in the country to other posts and also transfer officials of the Passport, Accountancy, Residential Permits and Investigation Units at the Immigration Headquarters.

Live TV broadcasts from Parliament
The action of the new government in stopping the popular live broad­casts of the proceedings in the National Assembly because they were said to be ‘too expensive’ proved controversial.

Zitto Kabwe, leader of the ACT Party, led the opposition and sought sus­pension of business to allow MPs to debate it in Parliament. However, a decision given earlier by the Steering Committee ruled that debate on the President’s speech could not be disrupted.

Chadema MP Tundu Lissu, insisted that this went against the rules of the House by usurping the roles of the Chair and the Committee on Procedures. Amidst much noise and disturbance the riot police arrived and several opposition MPs were frogmarched out of the Chamber. Eventually the leader of the main opposition Chadema Party agreed to let MPs continue the debate on the President’s speech and asked the remaining opposition MPs to leave the chamber.

Widespread protests from the opposition and journalists’ groups con­
tinued. They said that the decision was tantamount to censorship. Opposition parties offered to pay for the service, but their offer was rejected. There seems to be a widespread feeling in the country that broadcasts are a rare outlet where the relatively small but lively opposi­tion can hold the government to account and citizens can get an unvar­nished version of government matters being discussed by MPs.

Instead of a full broadcast of proceedings, the parliament’s press team is now distributing selected highlights to TV stations at the close of each day’s session, according to press accounts.
The BBC reported that, since the live coverage was halted, MPs had
been recording parliamentary debates on their mobile phones and
uploading the footage to social media.

Fine for Magufuli Facebook insult
A 40-year-old man was sentenced to three years in jail or a fine of TSh 7 million ($3,100) after he was found guilty of insulting President Magufuli on his Facebook page. He admitted committing the offence. However, the court reduced the punishment after a plea by the lawyer of the accused. He will be required to pay a penalty of TSh 7 million in two instalments. If he fails to fulfil these requirements, he will serve the jail term.

Removing a Minister
In a two-paragraph press statement in May, the President announced that he had revoked the appointment of Charles Kitwanga MP as Home Affairs Minister for coming to parliament ‘in a state of drunkenness’; he then arranged a minor cabinet reshuffle.

Job freeze
The President said in June that the government had decided to tempo­rally freeze new employment opportunities in the public service, and to stop salary increments in a move to stamp out ‘phantom workers’ on the government’s payroll. He advised those aspiring for jobs in the next financial year to wait for at least two months so that the government could ‘end contradictions’ as it was struggling to clear out non-existent ‘ghost workers’ while the public service continued to recruit new staff. All permits for sabbatical leave were also stopped.

Cutting Top salaries
President Magufuli declared that no executive in the public service should receive a monthly salary exceeding TSh 15 million beginning in the next financial year. He said it was a shame for a poor country like Tanzania to have people in public institutions getting TSh 40 million while those in junior positions received only TSh 300,000 a month.

7,800 students suspended
In the kind of move introduced by the Father of the Nation Julius Nyerere shortly after Independence in 1962, 7,800 University of Dodoma students have been suspended. They were studying under a special education programme and only those with the requisite quali­fications are being recalled to resume their studies. The President said that some high officials had taken advantage of the special programme to enrol their relatives [see also Education section]

The Opposition
The Chadema Party has appointed a new Secretary General – Dr Vincent Mashinji (43). In his first address he said that he wanted to mobilise the members to fight for a new party constitution. He said he had chosen to abandon medicine and venture into active politics. He would aim for the party to ‘occupy the State House by 2020’.

Chadema also announced their intention to hold a “day of defiance” with a series of nationwide protests on September 1st, 2016, denouncing what they described as President Magufuli’s “dictatorial” attitude to the opposition, notably a ban on politicians holding public rallies.

The police have banned the demonstrations, on the grounds of national security and protecting the peace. However, Chadema leaders insisted that they intend to go ahead regardless, noting that the ban on the pro­tests was further evidence of the government’s heavy-handed restric­tions on opposition party activities, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. Other complaints relate to the arrest of some opposition politicians and journalists for “sedition”, the closure or suspension of several media outlets, and clampdowns on online freedoms.

STOP PRESS: Amid rising tensions, Chadema leaders postponed the Sept 1st protest hours before it was due to start, partly in response to offers from religious leaders including the Revd Anthony Lusekelo to mediate the crisis.

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