by Donovan McGrath

The dinosaur of Dodoma John Magufuli is bulldozing the opposition and wrecking the economy

Economist.com (UK): Critically ill in a hospital in Nairobi, Tundu Lissu, the chief whip of Tanzania’s main opposition party, Chadema, is a lesson to those who would criticise the Tanzanian president, John Magufuli … On September 7th Mr Lissu was gunned down in broad daylight near his house in … Dodoma, after returning from a session in parliament. The attempted assassination came just two weeks after he was arrested – for the sixth time – for such things as insulting the president… “This cowardly attack on one of Tanzania’s most fearless and prominent politicians raises concerns about the safety of all dissident voices in the country, at a time when space for dissent is quickly shrinking,” said Amnesty International … Tanzania, a country of 55m people … is rarely seen as one of Africa’s problem cases. Unlike Congo, Uganda or Burundi, it has never had a civil war or a military dictatorship… Yet, over the past two years, since the election of John Magufuli, Tanzania’s descent into autocracy has been stunning. It is a lesson in how when the presidency is strong and other institutions are weak, a single bad leader can set a country back many years… Mr Magufuli, who is nicknamed “the bulldozer”, impressed many when he came into office by cracking down on corruption. But his economic ideas have a whiff of the “African socialism” of Julius Nyerere, the country’s founding leader, who declared a one-party state, nationalised factories and forced peasants at gunpoint onto collective farms. Donors had to step in to prevent mass starvation… Mr Magufuli is not as ruinously radical. But he has caused traffic to collapse in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s main port, which serves six countries, by imposing a huge tax on goods that pass through it. Ships have simply gone to Kenya instead. More startling still is Tanzania’s dispute with Acacia, a British gold-mining firm. The government claims that its two mines have been producing more than 10 times as much gold as they declared (which would make them the two largest gold mines in the world, by far). Preposterously, it says the firm owes taxes of $190bn, or roughly four times Tanzania’s annual GDP… Other firms worry they may be next. Petra Diamonds closed its mine in Tanzania in September after the government seized a parcel of diamonds it was exporting. And on October 9th Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian cement billionaire, accused Mr Magufuli if scaring investors away… What will happen now? There are few constraints on Mr Magufuli. With the opposition neutered, the ruling party remains mostly unchallenged. Mr Magufuli’s allies in parliament have even suggested extending the presidential term from five years to seven. Tanzania suffered wretchedly under one bull-headed socialist. It cannot afford another. (19 October 2017)Thanks to Roger Bowen for this item – Editor

WWF slams down Stiegler dam plan

Morning Star (UK): The World-wide Fund for Nature (WWF) released a report … warning that the Stiegler’s Gorge hydroelectric dam, intended to electrify [Tanzania], would threaten wetland and put 200,000 fishing jobs downriver at risk. Tanzanian President John Magufuli … said  for the sixth time – for such things as insulting the president. in parliament. The attempted assassination came just two weethat the dam and resulting reservoir will cover only about 3 per cent of the Selous region the WWF says will be devastated. But the environmentalists dispute his figures… (5 July 2017)Thanks to Jeremy Jones for this item – Editor


This Young Woman is Fighting Poverty in Tanzania by Teaching Women to Make Clothes

Glamour.com (USA): Boke is from a remote part of Tanzania that is beautiful but impoverished. By the time Boke was nine, both of her parents had died and she and her sister were sent to live with their grandmother. The grandmother meant well, but struggled to care for the girls, leaving Boke to look after her sister and the home. That took a toll on her education, and even though Boke is a bright girl, she never graduated from primary school. Now 20 years old, Boke lives at City of Hope, an incredible children’s home and school for underprivileged children in Tanzania. At City of Hope, Boke has found stability and even become fluent in English, but she was still too far behind academically to graduate from high school like most of the students at City of Hope aim to do. Instead, Boke is learning a specialized skill that she hopes will guarantee her a stable future: She’s learning to sew. City of Hope was founded by John Chacha and Regina Horst, an improbable husband-wife team. He grew up on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, she was a Canadian-American Mennonite… In 2007, they opened City of Hope in Ntagacha, a region of western Tanzania that was then rife with violence. Today the campus is home to more than 100 orphans, plus a clinic, a primary school that enrols 450 students, and a new secondary school that enrols another 50. John Chacha died in an automobile accident in 2015 while travelling to enrol a student in secondary school, but City of Hope has continued to grow and thrive with Regina at the helm. And now Tenzi Chacha, John and Regina’s daughter, is rounding out the curriculum at City of Hope by adding a new program she calls SEW, for Sewing Empowers Women. Tenzi has been interested in sewing and fashion since middle school, and realized that sewing could be useful for women in Tanzania… (8 December 2017) 


Tanzanian President Magufuli pardons child rapists

BBC.co.uk: Children’s rights activists have condemned the pardon of two child rapists by the Tanzanian president. Kate McAlpine, director of the Arusha-based Community for Children Rights, told the BBC she was “horrified but unsurprised”. John Magufuli made the pardon in his independence day speech … Singer Nguza Viking, known as Babu Seya, and his son Johnson Nguza, known as Papii Kocha, were pardoned for raping 10 primary schoolgirls… The president selected a group of prisoners to be released, who he said had corrected their behaviour. Ms McAlpine said the pardon illustrated Mr Magufuli showed a “lack of understanding about violence against children”. She linked this latest speech to his June announcement where he banned pregnant schoolgirls from returning to school (see TA118). “He has a blind spot when it comes to recognising children as victims. Pregnant schoolgirls are pregnant because they are victims of violence.” … Child rape cases in Tanzania tend to be dealt with between families, or rapists have been known to pay off police and court staff, Ms McAlpine said… (11 December 2017)


Barrick cedes gold assets in effort to settle Tanzanian dispute

Financial Times (UK): This dispute has been going on for some time (see TA117 and TA118) … when the Tanzanian government banned the export of unprocessed ores in an effort to boost the domestic smelting industry. It then accused Acacia [of which Barrick owns 64 per cent], one of Africa’s largest gold producers and Tanzania’s largest private employers, of illegally under-reporting its shipments and of tax evasion.  After a series of talks, Barrick’s chairman John Thornton and President John Magufuli finally reached an agreement. Extract continues: Barrick Gold has agreed to cede 16 per cent of Acacia Mining’s three mines in Tanzania to the state and pay $300m as the first step towards settling a six-month dispute over its subsidiary’s operations. Acacia’s Tanzania operations in the three mines, which produce mainly gold but also copper, will be managed through a new company with all “economic benefits” being shared equally between the London-listed miner and the government, the two sides agreed in a deal … The government’s share will be delivered in the form of royalties, taxes and the 16 per cent free carry interest in the operations, Barrick said. The agreement does not settle a $190bn tax dispute between Acacia and Tanzania; the $300m is a “gesture of good faith”, Barrick said and would be paid by Acacia. Acacia’s shares soared 20 per cent on the news of the deal but they are still 60 per cent below where they were before the dispute began. President John Magufuli of Tanzania wants to wring a greater share of mining company proceeds, which he says are too generous to the companies and the result of contentious practices under previous governments. He has also targeted Petra Diamonds, another London-listed miner… Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man and one of the biggest investors in Tanzania, accused Mr Magufuli of compromising foreign investment. “They’ve scared quite a lot of investors and scaring investors is not a good thing to do,” he said… (19 October 2017) – Thanks to Jeremy Jones for this item – Editor


Tanzania’s anti-corruption government is stifling the “Swahili Wikileaks”

Quartz magazine (New York) online: Maxence Melo is a man who knows the insides of Tanzania’s courthouses all too well. In 2017 alone, he has appeared in court about 51 times he says, accused of obstructing justice, operating an unregistered website, and refusing to reveal the identities of users who shared sensitive information. Melo, 38, is the co-founder of Jamii Forums (JF), a popular Swahili social media networking site that is part whistle-blowing platform and part citizen journalism outlet. Since it was founded in 2006, he has been harassed, threatened, detained, interrogated, and at one point barred from travelling abroad. And over the last two years, as president John Magufuli’s government tightened its grip on both the digital and traditional media spaces, Melo has become the poster boy for the crackdown… The clampdown has taken on a new significance as the government recently introduced a law that would give it unfettered powers to police the web. The proposed Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2017 calls for the registration of blogs and online forums, orders internet cafes to install surveillance cameras, prohibits material deemed as “offensive, morally improper” or that “causes annoyance,” and recommends a fine of 5 million Tanzanian shillings ($2,230) or 12 months in jail for anyone found guilty. Observers and activists have argued that some of the definitions provided in the law are ambiguous, violate individual privacy, curtail citizen’s right to free speech and expression and go against the spirit of an open internet… Be for he left power in 2015, former president Jakaya Kikwete signed a cybercrime law – informally known as the “Jamii bill” – that gives authorities powers to jail those who offend the president or publish false information… The panoply of laws scapegoating digital media outlets is also targeting traditional outlets like newspapers. [In 2017], both Mwanahalisi and Mawio newspapers were banned in Tanzania for one and two years respectively …  (12 December 2017)


No pain relief, no running water: the perils of childbirth in Tanzania

Eva Paulo with her baby daughter, Neema Nkwaya, one day old, at home in Nyarugusu (both photos Sameer Satchu for WaterAid)

Guardian (UK) online: ‘Natural birth’ is the only option for many women here, and though dedicated midwives do their best, the risk of infection – and sepsis – is high. Extract continues: At the Nyarugusu medical dispensary in north-west Tanzania, Eva Paulo, 23, is in her 36th hour of labour… “This is too much,” she says, as another contraction racks her. “I don’t know why it’s taking so long. And the midwives, they don’t tell me anything.” It is, of course, a universal complaint of women in labour the world over. But for many women in Tanzania, “natural birth” isn’t a preference or an accomplishment – it’s the only viable option. Paulo is about to give birth for the fourth time in the most basic hospital conditions imaginable… While the staff will do their best, Paulo will receive no pain relief, no foetal monitoring and no medical interventions. The lack of doctors means caesarean sections are not performed here. Another problem – from which so many others stem – is a lack of water. There is no running water for hand-washing, sterilisation or laundry. Toilets are filthy, squat outhouses a short walk from the building. Each morning, staff at the clinic buy 20 jerry cans of water from a local vendor for 500 shillings (about 16p) each, for basic cleaning. The money comes out of their own pockets, which is significant for nurses who earn less than £200 a month.  Because of this, pregnant women are required to arrive with their own water… Without water, the delivery room cannot be properly cleaned between deliveries, of which there are several each day… (2 October 2017)


Police arrest woman in Tanzania over video of her kissing and embracing a female friend in crackdown on homosexuality

Mail (UK) online: … The woman, who police said resides in the north-western Tanzanian town of Geita, was arrested after a video circulated on social media showing a woman kissing and hugging another woman and presenting her with a ring… Tanzanian president John Magufuli’s government has stepped up a crackdown against homosexuality since coming into power in 2015 and threatened in June to arrest and expel activists, as well as de-register all non-governmental organisations that campaign for gay rights… The arrest of the woman in Geita was thought to be the first arrest of a lesbian suspect in the recent crackdown and police sources said authorities were also searching for the woman who was given the ring in the video clip… The clip drew condemnation on social media platforms in the socially conservative nation, with some Tanzanians condemning the celebration as immoral… (2 December 2017)


Dramatic moment when workers use a bulldozer to free five wild elephants after they fell into a pit while looking for water in Tanzania

Mail (UK) online: … The herd – three adults and two baby [calves] – were discovered in a small trench in Rungwa Game Reserve, dehydrated and unable to escape. Manyoni natives from the Singida region quickly alarmed employers from Chinese construction company Sinohydro. The construction workers were located about 40 km from the reserve, and were asked to assist with saving the trapped elephants. The multinational firm dispatched engineers and a bulldozer, more than an hour later, they brought with them a construction digger to help with the operation… The pit was so small that the elephants pushed each other in panic. After a gruelling five hours of continuous effort, a female elephant and her baby were the first to stumble out of the pit. Two others followed them later. Liang Jifeng from the Tanzanian Department of Sinohydro Bureau 13 confirmed to Chinese news agency Xinhua that they were remarkably saved but one adult elephant died from a lack of water… (3 October 2017)


Cows and chickens cause spat between Kenya and Tanzania

Mail (UK) online: A diplomatic spat over cows and chickens has worsened already frosty ties between Kenya and Tanzania, with Nairobi lodging a formal protest against its neighbour, the foreign minister said … The latest impasse between the two east African nations began … when Tanzania seized and auctioned off 1,300 cattle which had wandered across the border to graze in a region where herders typically pay little heed to frontiers. Then … Tanzania seized and burnt alive 6,500 chicks that had been brought into the country by a trader, fearing they would spread disease… Kenyan traders have complained of mistreatment by Tanzanian immigration agents which has sparked protests at the border, and tit-for-tat trade jabs have seen the two nations blocking the import of various goods from either country… Tanzania’s President John Magufuli, increasingly criticised over his iron-fisted rule, warned Kenya that any livestock wandering into his country would be confiscated… (8 November 2017)


Journalist Reported Missing in Tanzania

New York Times (USA) online: Dodoma, Tanzania – A news organization in Tanzania says one of its journalists is missing after he was kidnapped from his home. Francis Nanai, executive director of Mwananchi Communications Limited, said … their reporter Azory Gwanda, 42, was reportedly kidnapped Nov. 21 in Kibiti town near the commercial hub of Dar es Salaam… Gwanda had published a series of stories on the mysterious killings of civilians and police officers in the area. Dar es Salaam police chief Lazaro Mambosasa said the police are “shocked” by the news of the missing journalist… (4 December 2017)

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