CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

by Ben Taylor

Uncertainty rules
With no official data having been reported in Tanzania since May 2020 on Covid-19 case numbers or deaths, the prevailing situation continues to be one of great uncertainty. The government maintains that the virus has been defeated in Tanzania, and public debate on the matter has largely ceased.

There is no doubt that – in common with much of Africa – the most alarming projections of the early epidemiological models have not come to pass. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), for example, projected that there could be as many as 175,000 deaths caused by the virus in Tanzania during 2020, and Imperial College, London suggested the number could reach 360,000. These projections have, to widespread relief, proved wrong.

The reasons for the relatively slow rate of spread of the virus in much of Africa remain uncertain. The younger age-profile of the population may have contributed, or part of the population may have some form of pre-existing immunity.

Nevertheless, without official data it remains impossible to accurately assess the state of the pandemic within Tanzania. And as nature abhors a vacuum, where there is no official data, rumours and anecdotal evidence thrive.

It is worth, therefore, summarising what we know with more confidence:

First, neighbouring countries saw rising case numbers since the later part of 2020, including Kenya, Uganda, the DRC, Zambia and, most recently, Malawi. In Kenya, the daily number of newly confirmed cases rose above 1,000 for much of October-December. In Zambia and Malawi, where earlier in 2020 case numbers remained very low, sharp increases have been seen in the first two weeks of January, possibly linked to the more infectious so-called South African variant of the virus.

Second, relaxed travel restrictions into Tanzania since mid-2020 have brought rising tourist numbers, particularly from Russia, as those tourists willing to travel at this time look to take advantage of relatively cheap prices and look to Tanzania as a location where restrictions are very relaxed. If the country did truly defeat the virus locally in May and June, it has surely been reintroduced since.

Third, Coronavirus testing has continued among certain groups within Tanzania – such as those intending to travel outside the country or taking part in international sporting events. Six footballers (and three others in the touring party) from a Zimbabwean team in Dar es Salaam for an African Champions League tie received positive test results. (It should be noted, however, that there is further uncertainty in this case, as the Zimbabwean team’s leadership noted irregularities in the testing process and hinted this might have been a tactic by local authorities to hamper their performance in the match.)

Fourth, in the most obviously-comparably contexts – Kenya and Uganda – lockdowns introduced in response to the pandemic have had serious impacts on livelihoods and the economy. The data is not yet conclusive on this, but it seems probable that Tanzania will have thus far escaped some such impacts of the pandemic – though the knock-on effects of global economic difficulties have affected exports, tourism and more.

Finally, and importantly, hospitals have not been overwhelmed and alarming early rumours of night-time burials and mass graves largely dried up.

Given the lack of more dependable data, it is also worth noting, though with caution, some of the unconfirmed rumours that have been circulating more recently, including:
• Reports of a spike in case numbers in December and early January, with rumours centred on cases within the Indian community in Dar es Salaam.
• Hospitals and health workers under intense pressure to avoid speaking to the media, but rumours of patients with certain symptoms being turned away and certain hospitals having high case numbers persist.
• Reports on travellers leaving the country testing negative before departure and positive on arrival at their destination.

The ever-evolving nature of the pandemic is such that judgements on President Magufuli’s unique response are premature. For reasons that probably have little to do with the country’s policy response, case numbers have not reached anything approaching the heights of early projections. And the country has probably – so far – avoided the worst economic impacts. And yet, with rising case numbers in neighbouring countries, and new virus variants spreading rapidly around the world, there are plenty of ways in which Tanzania’s Coronavirus response could go badly wrong.

And there are yet more uncertainties as well. The government’s stance on vaccines, for example, is still unknown. On the one hand, why would a country that has officially defeated the virus need vaccines? And sure enough, the Ministry of Health has been notably reluctant to discuss the country’s attitude to vaccinations. In early January, the Minister of Health, Dr Gwajima, told a reporter: “I cannot tell you now; but we will issue a public statement soon. So, be patient.” A spokesman for the Ministry was also reported as saying that “there are no plans in place yet of importing vaccine for Covid-19, our health experts and scientists are still researching and undergoing clinical trials for the local herbs for covid-19.”

Post-Covid, it is also unclear how the wider world would view a country that decides on vaccine-scepticism. Travel advisory notices could impact on tourist numbers, for example. And if recalcitrance on combatting the virus comes to be seen as undermining global vaccination efforts and putting other countries’ progress against the virus at risk, this could cause further strain to Tanzania’s diplomatic relations, including with donor countries.

In short, while the government continues to claim victory, it remains too early to do so with confidence. And while the government’s critics continue to cry foul, their case remains, to date, inconclusive. Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position in which to move forward, yet it remains the only choice we have.

GENERAL ELECTION 2020

by Ben Taylor

General election looms large
With Presidential and Parliamentary elections scheduled for 28th October 2020, the political atmosphere has been tense over recent weeks and months. President Magufuli of the ruling CCM party is seeking re­election for a second five-year term that, under the current constitution, will be his final term. He is opposed by two main opposition candidates; Tundu Lissu of Chadema and Bernard Membe of ACT Wazalendo.

Introducing the candidates
Tundu Lissu is the former president of the Tanganyika Law Society and outspoken critic of President Magufuli. He drew international headlines in September 2017 when he was shot multiple times in daylight by unknown assailants outside his home near the Parliament in Dodoma. To date, nobody has been arrested or charged in connection with the attack. Lissu was airlifted to Nairobi and later to Belgium where he spent nearly three years recovering. He returned to Tanzania in July 2020.

Since 2010, Chadema has been Tanzania’s leading opposition party, at least in mainland Tanzania (CUF has been the largest in Zanzibar), and its presidential candidates, Dr Wilbroad Slaa in 2010 and Edward Lowassa in 2015, achieved vote shares of 27% and 40% respectively. Neither Dr Slaa nor former Prime Minister Lowassa have stayed with Chadema. Lissu has been a prominent party figure since entering formal politics in 2010, acting for much of this time as the party’s legal affairs spokesman, and throughout as a prominent and vocal critic of the gov­ernment.

Bernard Membe is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs (2007-2015) under President Kikwete. He unsuccessfully sought the CCM nomi­nation for the Presidency in 2015. After losing out on that position to Magufuli, he did not seek re-election as an MP. Over the past five years he has been an occasional but largely underground critic of the President. He was expelled from the party in February 2020, either because he had “violated the party’s ethics and constitution” (according to the party’s Central Committee) or to prevent him from challenging the sitting President for the party’s nomination this year (according to Membe himself).

Shortly after this, he joined ACT Wazalendo, bringing him together with two other political heavyweights in the form of the party’s founder and leader, Zitto Kabwe, and former CUF leader and former Vice President of Zanzibar, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad.

President Magufuli will be well known to readers by now. He is no stranger to controversy, having attracted considerable international criticism for his tightening of restrictions on the media, civil society, freedom of expression and opposition political parties. He has also attracted criticism for his handling of the economy, with some respected observers recently suggesting that the economy is in a worse condition than the government claims (see Economics section, this issue).

Nevertheless, the President is thought to remain very popular with the general public. He is seen as hard working, dedicated to fighting corruption and getting a better deal for the country from foreign inves­tors. And he has delivered some high-profile projects over the first five years of his presidency, including several new aircraft for a revived Air Tanzania airline, progress on road and bridge building, rail upgrading, and power generation.

Zanzibar
In the isles, the election dynamics will be quite different from the main­land. This has always been the case in the past, where close results, contested results and evidence of manipulated results have been the norm on Zanzibar, ever since multiparty democracy was reintroduced in 1995.

Voters will cast votes both for the President of Tanzania and the President of Zanzibar, but the focus of the campaigns will lie primarily on the latter. In this case, there will be no incumbent as the current president, Ali Mohammed Shein of CCM, is ineligible to run for a third term. Two candidates to replace him are prominent: Hussein Mwinyi of CCM and Seif Sharif Hamad of ACT Wazalendo. And there is a third candidate with little chance of winning but who could nevertheless disrupt the result: Mussa Haji Kombo of CUF.

Hussein Mwinyi is the son of former Tanzanian president, Ali Hassan Mwinyi. He has been an MP since 2000 and has held various ministerial positions over the past twenty years. Most recently, he has been Tanzania’s Minister of Defence since 2014. He won the party’s nomination easily with 79% of the vote.

Seif will contest the Zanzibar Presidency for the sixth time, but for the first time with ACT Wazalendo. His previous campaigns were all under the CUF banner, though he was forced to quit CUF in early 2019 after a power struggle with the party’s former national presidential candidate, Ibrahim Lipumba. However, although he lost the battle for control of CUF with Lipumba, he is widely seen as having won the war, as the vast majority of CUF members and elected officials joined Seif in moving to ACT Wazalendo, either at the same time or in the run up to this year’s campaign. In many cases they even took party offices and furniture with them, arguing that these belonged to individual party members who had let the party use them, rather than to the party itself. As a result, Seif will be the main challenger to CCM.

In contrast, the CUF candidate, Mussa Haji Kombo, is a relative unknown with little following across the isles, who is unlikely to attract more than a few less-engaged voters. Nevertheless, this could perhaps dilute the opposition vote. Given the tight results in previous Zanzibar elections, even a small dilution effect could be enough to affect the result. Indeed, some analysts (and many in ACT Wazalendo) see this as the main reason for the Lipumba faction’s takeover of CUF – that it represents a CCM dirty-tricks effort to divide and weaken the opposition on Zanzibar.

With the official campaigns due to start imminently at the time of writing (September 3rd), there are already signs that the election on Zanzibar will not be entirely free and fair. For example, the number of registered voters has fallen by over 10% compared to 2015. It is claimed that as many as 120,000 potential new voters who turned 18 since 2015 were unable to register due to problems getting Zanzibar identity cards. Further, many – perhaps most – ACT Wazalendo candidates on the isles have had their eligibility challenged by other candidates, including Seif Sharif Hamad himself, largely for minor administrative irregularities, such as using the party’s abbreviated name rather than the full name.

STOP PRESS: As of September 12th, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission cleared Mr Hamad’s candidacy, rejecting the objections that had been raised.

The prospect for opposition parties
Many of the same issues around candidate eligibility and voter registra­tion apply also in mainland Tanzania. Candidates have had eligibility challenged for issues as minor as entering DSM as their residence rather than spelling out Dar es Salaam in full.

Unresolved opposition concerns about the independence of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) lie at the heart of much of this. The controversial 2019 local elections and recent parliamentary and council by-elections, in which many candidates were disqualified even before the campaign began, undermined opposition confidence that NEC would act as an impartial adjudicator. In some cases, however, that experience seems to have prepared opposition parties for this campaign, with candidates going the extra mile to ensure their nomination forms are accepted and parties having legal teams on standby to deal with issues as they arise. Despite this, the CCM Secretary General announced at the end of August that in 18 constituencies, CCM candidates were elected unopposed as all opposition candidates had been disqualified.

In 2015, the major opposition parties joined forces to some extent, running a single candidate for each position so as not to split the opposition vote. That has not happened this time, and ACT and Chadema candidates are likely to draw voters away from each other, both at constituency and presidential level.

Taking a step back, the broader context is likely to make the election a difficult one for opposition party candidates, both at presidential and parliamentary levels. Many political party meetings and rallies have been disrupted or prevented from taking place over the past few years, making it hard for opposition parties to organise themselves and to build public support. Most prominent opposition figures have also spent much of the last three years fighting legal battles, and many have spent time in prison. Policing has become increasingly politicised. Clampdowns on media freedoms and freedom of expression have also created an environment in which newspaper editors and TV and radio producers know that any sign of coverage that criticises the government could lead to a suspension or ban, with potentially severe financial consequences. Even without the government making use of new powers in laws enacted since 2015, many in the media would prefer to err on the side of caution. [See previous issues for details.]

The prospects for CCM
The first previous Tanzanian president to contest re-election since the re-introduction of multiparty democracy, Benjamin Mkapa in 2000, won an increased share of the vote – from 62% to 72%. The second, Jakaya Kikwete in 2010, saw his share decline sharply – from 80% to 63%. In 2015, President Magufuli won with a lower vote share than any of his predecessors: 58%. On the face of it, this looks like he might be more vulnerable than either Mkapa in 2000 or Kikwete in 2010.

Nevertheless, while President Magufuli has drawn strong criticism from opposition politicians, pro-democracy activists both within the country and beyond, western diplomats and western media, he is thought to remain popular among the general population.

The President and CCM can point to a record of some attention-grabbing achievements. In launching his party’s campaign at a rally in Dodoma, President Magufuli said, “I have done a lot and you all are witnesses to this. I’m now asking for your vote to sustain the momentum and deliver new more.”

He listed some of the flagship projects he championed in the past five years as including the construction of standard gauge railway, the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Project at Steigler’s Gorge that will produce up to 2,115 MW, the increased of number of students joining university and who benefit from study loans, a clampdown on corruption and waste, and the revitalisation of the national airline, ATCL. He has pointed to the country’s new status as a middle-income country (see Economics section, this issue). And he also claimed that energy access has improved from 35% to 85%. “We will keep on taking measures to reduce poverty by stressing on sectors such as agriculture, tourism and mining which employ more people,” he said.

The party’s manifesto highlights six key aims to build on these suc­cesses, namely:
i. to protect and strengthen the principles of human dignity, equality, justice and good governance in order to maintain peace, unity and solidarity in the country
ii. to develop a modern, integrated and competitive economy built on the basis of manufacturing, economic services and infrastruc­ture
iii. to revolutionize agriculture, livestock and fisheries to ensure food security and sustainable livelihoods and contribute fully to the development of our country
iv. to enhance access to quality health care, education, water, electric­ity and decent housing in both rural and urban areas
v. to encourage the use of research, science, technology and innova­tion as a tool for rapid social and economic development
vi. to create at least eight million jobs in the formal and informal sectors especially for youth.

It goes on to list an eye-catching 6,000km of roads to be constructed and surfaced with tarmac in the coming five years. For context, this is roughly the same as the total amount of paved road Tanzania had in 2013. Promised new projects include widening the Dar-Chalinze highway to eight lanes, ten new flyover junctions in Dar es Salaam similar to the one recently opened at the TAZARA junction, and widening of the road between the airport and the city centre.

Possible outcomes
There is no polling data available that can guide observers on this. Those organisations that have conducted credible polls in the past are either unwilling or unable to do so this time, after opinion surveys have become highly politicised in recent years. The head of one such organisation, Twaweza, Aidan Eyakuze, had his nationality questioned and passport seized after a survey in 2018 that showed a decline in the president’s approval rating [Full disclosure: the editor of Tanzanian Affairs and author of this article, Ben Taylor, also works as a consultant for Twaweza]. As a result, the most recent available survey dates from two and a half years before polling day – effectively useless.

The politicised policing and the tight restrictions on the media, oppo­sition parties and freedom of expression more generally may attract both international attention and the ire of the young, educated, urban-dwelling citizens who form the core support of the opposition parties. But for many citizens and voters, these things matter less than jobs, food on the table, schools and health services that function properly, a sense that a leader is on your side, and even a sense of national pride.

The state of the economy is more contentious. Official data paints a positive picture, but other sources suggest the true situation may not be so rosy [see Economics section, this issue]. Voters are more likely to vote according to their own personal economic realities – do they see job opportunities, do they feel food stress, etc. – than any official govern­ment statistics.

The Coronavirus pandemic has largely been neutralised as a factor in this election. While the true state of the outbreak in Tanzania remains unclear, media coverage within the country has almost entirely bought in to the government line that the outbreak has been defeated, and there has not been an overwhelming number of cases on a scale that cannot be dismissed as other issues – pneumonia, heart problems, diabetes, etc. [see next article]. As such, whether or not the pandemic is truly under control in Tanzania, the widespread perception among the public is that it has indeed been dealt with effectively.

Finally, the tightening of democratic space – and possible irregularities in the electoral process itself – do not bode well either for a free and fair election or for the ongoing process of establishing local democratic norms and practices. Further, irregularities and even perceived irregu­larities can both contribute significantly to heightened tensions and the kind of anger than can boil over into unrest. If the police are seen to be supporting one side over another, that could well make the situation worse.

It is not for this publication to issue any endorsements, or even to make a prediction about the results. We do, however, wish the country well as she goes to the polls. May the election be free and fair, and may it be peaceful.

CORONAVIRUS

By Ben Taylor

Prayers answered?
In the four months that have passed since the last issue of Tanzanian Affairs, Tanzania has defeated the Coronavirus. There have been no new infections and no deaths reported since early May – the only country in the world for which this is the case. President Magufuli has declared victory.

The President had previously called for the country to use the power of prayer against the virus, saying that the virus “could not survive in the body of Jesus”. He called for three days of national prayer and said God would protect Tanzanians against the virus.

So, did it work? Is this why Tanzania has reported no new cases?
It would be easier to answer the question – and indeed to report on the state of the outbreak in Tanzania more generally – if the government had released any new data since early May. It has not done so. On the website of the African Centres for Disease Control and the reports of the World Health Organisation, the number of positive cases in Tanzania has remained firmly stuck at 510 since May.

In a speech on May 3rd the President accused unnamed “imperialist foreign powers” of sabotaging the national response by providing ineffective testing kits or buying off laboratory employees. He said he had sent dummy samples from a pawpaw and goat for testing, with some producing positive results. Heads rolled at the national health laboratory. In the same speech, the president also suggested international media organisations – the BBC was not named, but the implication was clear – have been deliberately spreading scare stories to undermine Tanzania while ignoring the extent of the outbreak in their home countries. He called this “another form of warfare”. Reforms were instituted at the national laboratory, together with a promise that once testing facilities were working properly, regular reports on case numbers would resume. This has not happened.

Nor, however, has there been any compelling evidence to disprove the government’s claims. Hospitals have not been overwhelmed with huge numbers of patients – whether of COVID-19 or indeed of “pneumonia”. It could be possible to cover up or disguise a few hundred – or even a few thousand – COVID-19 cases, but not the 150,000-200,000 deaths suggested by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s epidemiological modelling for Tanzania, assuming an uncontrolled outbreak. That model projected that most of the fatalities would occur in July and August. It has clearly – and thankfully – not come to pass.

The result is two narratives on the state of the outbreak in Tanzania that exist entirely independently of each other. On the one hand, there are no new cases and victory has been declared. The absence of undeniable evidence to the contrary means that the national media has almost entirely bought in to this view, or lacks the basis on which to question it. Life has returned, for most, to something a lot like normal, and the public has largely moved on.

At the same time, it has been very easy for the international media to paint the President as dangerously naïve and misguided, and to foretell devastating consequences for the country.

The true situation may bear little relation to either picture. Indeed, looking beyond Tanzania, scientists are intrigued by the limited impact of the virus across much of Africa. In an article in early August, the journal Science looked at the numbers and found evidence of infection rates in several countries well above official case counts, but with very few people reporting symptoms.

For example, a study by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KMRI) Wellcome Trust Research Programme in June and July found that one in twenty Kenyans had COVID-19 antibodies – an indication of past infection. This would put the outbreak in Kenya on the scale of anything seen in Europe. And yet, at the time of the research, Kenyan hospitals were not reporting large numbers of patients and the official death toll stood at 100.

Similar studies in Mozambique and Malawi have reached similar conclusions. In the Malawian case, comparing findings with mortality ratios for COVID-19 elsewhere, researchers estimated that the reported number of deaths in Blantyre at the time, 17, was eight times lower than expected.

The discrepancy is unlikely to be solely due to lower testing numbers, otherwise overall mortality rates would be increasing, which does not appear to have happened. It could have more to do with the very low age profiles of African populations – the median age in Kenya is 20, in Spain it is 45. It could be that Africans have some form of genetic advantage, though higher fatality rates among ethnic minorities in western countries suggest otherwise. Or it could be that regular exposure to parasites like Malaria and to a range of COVID-like viruses has helped prime people’s immune system to respond effectively.

This all raises the question of whether the continent should try for “herd immunity” – letting the virus run its course to allow the population to become immune, perhaps while shielding the most vulnerable. But Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council, says it could be dangerous to base COVID-19 policies on antibodies. It’s not clear whether antibodies actually confer immunity, and if so, how long it lasts, she notes.

The herd immunity strategy arguably (and charitably) reflects the path that Tanzania has effectively taken. It may yet work. And yet, with no data being released, we have no way of knowing.

COVID-19 HITS TANZANIA

by Ben Taylor

First cases of Covid-19 in Tanzania
[Editor’s note: As this is a fast-changing situation, the details provided here are likely to be somewhat out of date by the time this issue reaches readers. Nevertheless, every effort has been made to ensure the details were correct at the time of writing (April 24).]

The first recognised case of Covid-19 in Tanzania was recorded on March 16 in Arusha, a Tanzanian woman who had recently returned from Belgium. Two further cases were recorded two days later, one in Dar and the other in Zanzibar, both foreign nationals. Three more followed the day after that.

The government acted swiftly, closing all schools with immediate effect on March 17 and universities from the following day. Major sporting events were also suspended. A contact-tracing and testing system – designed with a potential Ebola outbreak in mind – was put in place.

Nevertheless, the number of cases crept upwards over the following days and weeks. The first death was recorded on March 31.

Initially, cases were limited to those having recently arrived in the country from countries where the outbreak was already more widespread. However, on April 9, the Minister of Health, Ummy Mwalimu announced that the first recorded case of local transmission had been detected around the start of the month.

At the time of writing, the number of recorded cases has begun to rise more quickly, reaching 284 cases and ten deaths as announced by the government on April 22, up from 32 cases ten days earlier.

As has been the case across much of the world, the government has struggled to find the right response to an unprecedented and overwhelmingly difficult situation.

Even before the first cases were recorded in Tanzania, the President and the Minister of Health had both begun urging Tanzanians to take precautions – handwashing with soap, social distancing where possible and refraining from handshakes.

Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad (left) and President Magufuli tap feet in greeting on March 3rd – photo State House


President Magufuli himself set a public example when meeting with opposition leader Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad (of ACT Wazalendo) on March 3: rather than shake hands, they tapped feet. The photo featured prominently in news coverage, and did much to raise public awareness of the virus.

On March 13, the President urged the media to dedicate time alongside their news coverage to educate the public about the virus.

More substantive policy measures, however, have been more piecemeal. After the closure of schools and universities, the next major policy response came on March 23, when it was announced that all international arrivals into Tanzania from Covid-19-affected countries would have to undergo 14 days quarantine in designated hotels (at their own cost). This prompted distress from many returning Tanzanian citizens, who complained that the designated hotels were tourist-class hotels at prices beyond anything they would usually pay.

Three weeks later, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority suspended all international commercial passenger flights to and from Tanzania until further notice, though in reality almost all such flights had already ceased operating due to restriction in other countries and measures taken by airlines for commercial reasons.

A faith-based response
The government also urged people to remain at home as much as possible, travel less on public transport and refrain from socialising. The message was somewhat undermined, however, by repeated public statements by the President and other national figures encouraging people to continue to attend their churches and mosques as normal, as the country needed their prayers.

The President, speaking while attending a Sunday service on March 22, said the virus was “satanic” and “it cannot survive in the body of Jesus. It will burn.”

This approach drew criticism both within and outside the country. Opposition leader, Zitto Kabwe, accused the government of “a lack of seriousness” and the President of being in “a state of denial.”

Nevertheless, the President doubled down on the message. Shortly before Easter he stated that “this is the time to build our faith and continue praying to God and not depending on facemasks. Don’t stop going to churches and mosques for prayers. I’m sure this is just a change of wind and it will go like others have gone.” And on April 16, the President called for three days of national prayer, saying God would protect Tanzanians from the virus.

Social distancing not in evidence at Palm Sunday mass in Full Gospel Bible Fellowship Church in Dar es Salaam

This earned the President a spot in a list of the “Notorious Nine” world leaders who “responded to the coronavirus with denial, duplicity and ineptitude,” compiled by a Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail. “Tanzania today remains the only country where the government has recommended church attendance as a way of combatting the virus,” the paper reported.

The Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, has differed only a little in his stance. “Prayers in houses of worship are desirable,” he said, “but we also need to take necessary precautions.” He added, however, that as even wealthy countries have not been spared the pandemic, “it is time we sought divine intervention”.

On April 22, the President extended his advice a little beyond prayer
– to incorporate tradition medicine using steam inhalation. This, he said, was “scientifically very clear, because vapour is above 100 degrees centigrade and the virus will disintegrate,” before suggesting that concoctions made of Neem trees, onions and other ingredients could be beneficial, though without specifying whether as prevention or as treatment.

Scientists have concluded that this would have no positive effect, could cause burns and might make people more vulnerable to infection or to infections causing more severe problems. A Reuters fact check (not responding to President Magufuli, but to earlier online posts claiming steam inhalation as a cure), concluded that the idea was false, and indeed dangerous. Similarly, a BBC factcheck concluded that “any attempt to inhale steam at this temperature, would be extremely dangerous … and your lungs would certainly be irreparably damaged before reaching a temperature high enough to deactivate the virus.” Scientifically, it is very clear.

After making this suggestion, the president concluded that “we will beat Corona by working together, by putting an end to fear, by putting God first, and will beat Corona as we have been able to win other wars.”

No lockdown, “never”
The President has also shunned all calls for a lockdown. “Let us continue working hard to build our nation,” he said in mid-April. “Coronavirus is not and should not be a reason for us not working. Farmers should utilise the ongoing rains effectively, industrial owners should continue producing and I don’t expect any development project to stop.”

Some minimal social distancing measures were put in place. In addition to the closure of schools, universities and sporting events, this includes attempts to prevent overcrowding on public transport – no more passengers permitted than the number of seats – and some restrictions (later relaxed) on travel between Dar es Salaam and up-country locations. Many rural communities have put in place their own measures to fine or quarantine anyone arriving from Dar es Salaam – as many have done, recognising the lower risk associated with lower population densities and the possibility of growing your own food. The April 26 Union Day public celebrations have been cancelled, as has the Uhuru Torch race.

Opposition leaders say the country needs to take more urgent action to avoid potential disaster. Freeman Mbowe, the chairman of the largest opposition party, Chadema, posted on Twitter: “No lockdown because he (President Magufuli) wants to save the economy and his flagship infrastructure projects. The lives of our people cannot be repaired but the economy can! Lockdown or get locked out!”

The President has repeatedly resisted all such calls. On April 22, speaking in his hometown of Chato to security force leaders, he addressed the issue again: “There are those who have suggested that we lockdown Dar es Salaam. This is not possible,” he said. “Dar es Salaam is where we collect almost 80 per cent of the country’s revenue, we can continue taking measures to curb the virus but not by locking down Dar es Salaam. Never!”

At the time of writing, the truth is that social distancing has not become part of life for many in Dar es Salaam or other urban areas of Tanzania. Markets, public transport and bars remain crowded, as well as places of worship.

And the government faces some impossible choices in this regard. While a small number of Dar es Salaam residents – primarily those in middle class jobs – are able to work from home, the reality for many is that this would spell rapid and severe economic distress. Tanzania lacks the economic capacity to provide either direct financial assistance or food aid to the millions who would need it.

There is considerable debate about whether a lockdown might not be the best response in many African countries, where populations are both extremely young and financially vulnerable. Melissa Leach, the Director of the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) and James Fairhead, an environmental and medical anthropologist, both at the University of Sussex, have written that “the best policies for countries with young populations may not be lockdowns.”

Around 3% of Tanzania’s population is aged 65 or above, compared to around 18% in the UK and 20% in Italy.

“There may be better ways to save lives such as physically shielding and supporting the most vulnerable while allowing the wider population to gain immunity, whether through a vaccine when it arrives or by virtue of enough people catching and recovering from the virus itself,” they wrote. “Poor countries are much less able to cushion the potentially devastating economic impacts produced by lockdowns. This is if they are feasible in the first place. Effective lockdowns are near impossible in crowded low-income settlements that lack taps and sewers.”

“Today, some version of the lockdown has become most countries’ response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In years to come, we may look back on this moment as one in which an ideological practice emanating from older and wealthier countries was misguidedly “copy and pasted” by elites in younger and poorer societies, leading to marginal benefits in tackling the coronavirus but with the effect of increasing poverty and mortality among the poor.”

Nevertheless, most of Tanzania’s neighbours have opted for forms of lockdown that go well beyond anything being done in Tanzania. In Uganda, the country has been in strict lockdown since March 30. Movement is restricted, public gatherings are suspended and all but a small number of essential businesses are closed. This is enforced in Kampala and other urban centres by a heavy police presence on the streets. In Kenya, the government has not gone quite so far, though did introduce a nationwide 7pm-5am curfew and the closure of all bars and restaurants in late March, followed by a ban on movement in and out of Nairobi and other major urban centres in early April.

Health services
Much of Tanzania’s epidemic preparations have been with Ebola in mind, with contact tracing and testing and isolation of patients of a relatively small number of patients. It is not designed to cope with the large numbers of patients the current pandemic has seen around the world, nor with asymptomatic carriers.

The number of ventilators available is low (the precise number is unknown), stocks of protective equipment for health workers are minimal, even supplies of running water and electricity are unreliable in many hospitals. Five hundred ventilators were donated by Chinese entrepreneur, Jack Ma, on April 8, and several local business figures have donated masks, gowns and other equipment. Doctors have complained about a shortage of protective equipment.

Initially, all positive Covid-19 cases in Tanzania were being isolated in selected hospitals, including those with few or no symptoms. Since April 19, this is primarily the Amana Hospital in Ilala, Dar es Salaam. All other patients at the hospital were transferred elsewhere. Muhimbili National Hospital has been directed to refer all Covid-19 patients to Amana, and to focus exclusively on other medical needs. There have been some efforts to increase capacity at Amana and supply it with new equipment.

There have also been reports of unrest among patients in isolation at Amana. On April 24, it was reported that some patients had staged a breakout. Different reports stated this was either due to dissatisfaction at the poor standard of care being provided to more serious cases or due to frustration among patients with no symptoms that they were being kept for an unnecessarily long time against their will. Similar events were seen the same day in Nairobi, Kenya.

International support, and concern
Various donor agencies have pledged additional financial assistance to Tanzania to cope with the pandemic, though details in most cases are scarce. The government of Ireland responded very quickly, providing €1.5 million to support the national response seven days after the first case was announced. Tanzania has been promised part of a €1.2 billion package set up by the French government to support Covid-19-responses across Africa. The British government has pledged some direct support to Tanzania (“an initial” £2.7 million), but has put large amounts toward international efforts towards vaccine development (£544 million) and the work of international agencies (£200 million) including the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme in combatting the pandemic. The EU has raised over €15 billion to support the global response, though this is likely to focus most on supporting economic mitigation and recovery. The US government has committed around $1.5m towards the Tanzanian response.

On April 22, President Magufuli thanked the World Bank for making loans available for financing the response, but suggested that the Bank should instead cancel debts owed by Tanzania and other developing countries. “Now is the right time for the World Bank, which has been touched by the crisis and has good intentions to assist us, to forgive part of the debts we owe, so that the money we are paying each month, and the interest, can be put towards responding to the Coronavirus crisis. This is my request, and I request also that other African countries should join in this call.

WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti who also urged countries not to let Covid-19 eclipse other health issues.


On April 24, the WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said there were concerns about the rise of cases reported in Tanzania in the previous few days. “Certainly in Tanzania we have observed that physical distancing, including the prohibition of mass gatherings, took some time to happen and we believe that these might have been probable factors that led to a rapid increase in cases there.”

Uncertainty and trepidation
The coming months hold a high level of risk and uncertainty for the whole world, with every country facing its own unique challenges according to the local context – and a degree of luck. For Tanzania, it now seems unlikely that the outbreak will be contained, and therefore probable that the virus will spread rapidly in low income neighbourhoods of Dar es Salaam, as well as other towns and cities. It seems unlikely that health services will be able to respond effectively. And it seems likely that the economic consequences – lockdown or no lockdown – will be severe for many, with urban areas again likely to be hardest hit.

Lower population densities in rural areas may offer some protection – both reducing the chance of infections reaching rural communities and slowing the spread within such areas. In rural areas, households are also more likely to be able to produce a greater proportion of the food they need. The young age of the population may offer some protection, if fewer of those who contract the virus suffer severe symptoms, though this may also contribute to faster spread among asymptomatic carriers.

The truth is, however, that this situation is unprecedented in modern times. Nobody truly knows how it will play out, nor what the cost in lives will be, nor the impact on food security and the wider economy.

POLITICS

by Ben Taylor

Election year
With the Covid-19 pandemic raging across the globe, any major event scheduled for 2020 is vulnerable to cancellation or postponement, but no such decision has yet been taken with regard to Tanzania’s general elections, set for October. Local councillors, MPs and the President will all be up for re-election.

The subject of possible postponement has come up in the media – including an insightful blogpost by Dr Victoria Lihiru of the Law Department at the Open University of Tanzania that looked at the legality of a delay. Dr Lihiru concluded that it would require a constitutional amendment. The only constitutional provisions allowing for postponement of elections apply only if the country is at war. This would need to be supported by two thirds of MPs.

Nevertheless, the starting assumption must be that the election will go ahead.

Free, fair, open and transparent?
Prior to the arrival of the Coronavirus in Tanzania, the coming elections were at the top of the public agenda. In his annual New Year Sherry Party for diplomats in Tanzania, President Magufuli stressed that the elections would be open, transparent, free and fair.

“A general election is mandatory for any democratic nation like Tanzania. Therefore, the government is determined to embrace justice, transparency and freedom during the election,” he said. He added that the government will allow international agencies and observers to come and monitor the polls.

The assurance came just a few weeks after opposition parties, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the international community concluded that local government elections held last November were not free and fair. The main opposition parties boycotted the election protesting what they termed as unfair disqualification of their nominees.

These same groups reacted to the President’s statement with some scepticism. James Mbatia, national chairman of opposition party NCCR Mageuzi said the President had to delivery on such commitments.

“Making promises is one thing but implementing them is totally different; the President should set the ball rolling,” said Mr Mbatia.

Executive Director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre, Anna Henga, said she welcomed this assurance positively, but added that “in my honest opinion, we still have to address the challenges in the electoral system. For example, Opposition politicians have for a long time complained that our electoral system wasn’t free and fair, while we (CSOs) were locked out of the November 2019 civic polls as well as in some of by-elections held recently, this must be sorted out.” Prof Bakari argued that there were signs that the October general election wouldn’t be free and fair basing on the experience on last November civic polls.

CCM’s Secretariat of Political Affairs and International Relations director, Ngemela Lubinga, said that since this statement came from the Head of State, all would be well. “The Head of State has never disappointed us. There is no need to worry. Those who are sceptic of his assurance should understand that he will address any challenges before the general election, if there is any,” said Mr Lubinga.

Nevertheless, opposition party’s concerns appeared reasonable in early March, when CCM Secretary General, Dr Bashiru Ally gave an interview in which he stated that ruling parties only had themselves to blame if they failed to use their control of state apparatus to ensure victory at the polls.

“It’s obvious that CCM intends to use state powers in the forthcoming elections,” said General Secretary of Chadema, John Mnyika, in response. Mr Mnyika also pointed to the government’s refusal to listen to calls for reform of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

Such calls had grown louder since the new year. Another opposition party, ACT Wazalendo, launched a nationwide campaign in March to push for the establishment of a truly independent NEC. This added weight to similar calls already emanating from CSOs and other opposition parties. Chadema wrote to the President in January asking for, among other things, the formation of an autonomous electoral commission.

Former Foreign Secretary, Bernard Membe, who was expelled from CCM in February for perceived disloyalty, in March joined calls for reform of NEC. “I said it in the [CCM] Ethics Committee and let me say it again: The prevailing political climate calls for an electoral commission which is independent, representative and transparent at both the national and district level [sic]. I, therefore, strongly support all the voices to that effect.”

The Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, told Parliament in February this year that the current electoral commission was already “very independent” as he rejected pleas for formation of independent electoral body.

The independence (or otherwise) of the Commission has become a key point of contention, prompted in part by how NEC acted during the 2019 civic polls and in part by the appointment of Dr Wilson Mahera, a perceived CCM-loyalist as Director of NEC in October 2019. Dr Mahera is a known CCM member who has previously vied for positions within CCM leadership at local level. His previous post was as Acting Executive Director of Arusha District Council, before which he served as Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Dar es Salaam. No reason was given from removing the previous NEC Director, Dr Athuman Kihamia, who served just over a year.

Chadema, ACT Wazalendo and LHRC all expressed concern at the appointment of Dr Mahera. Chadema have argued that it is unconstitutional, since the constitution prohibits any person who is a member of a political party from being involved in the administration of elections. For a similar reason, in 2019, the High Court ruled that District Executive Directors could no longer act as returning officers in elections, though the decision was later overturned on appeal.

Chadema leaders found guilty
Eight senior figures in Chadema, including the party’s national chair, Freeman Mbowe were found guilty of sedition in early March, and sentenced to a collective total fine of TSh 350 million or to each serve five months in prison. Alongside Mr Mbowe were John Mnyika, Ester Matiko, John Heche, Peter Msigwa, Halima Mdee and Ester Bulaya, all prominent Chadema MPs, the party’s Deputy Secretary for Zanzibar, Salum Mwalimu, and former General Secretary Dr Vincent Mashinji, who had since defected to CCM.
14 Politics

The nine had been charged with offences including unlawful assembly, rioting, and making seditious statements in February 2018 during a by-election campaign in Kinondoni constituency in Dar es Salaam. They had denied the charges.

Chadema started a campaign to raise funds immediately after the magistrate’s pronouncement at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate court. Within days, the funds to pay the fines were raised from supporters and all the leaders were released. CCM members similarly raised funds to secure the release of Dr Mashinji.

Under Tanzanian law, any statement made with the intention to “raise discontent or disaffection amongst people or sections of people of the United Republic” is considered to be seditious.

The other main opposition party, ACT Wazalendo, has also faced similar legal difficulties. In February, the High Court judged that the party’s leader, Zitto Kabwe, had a case to answer for allegedly seditious statements made in October 2018. He is expected to face trial later in the year.

Sim card switch-off
Tightened restrictions on mobile phone sim card registration, enforced from January, led to a massive switch off of improperly registered sim cards.

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) began enforcing guidelines that only people who registered their sim cards using National Identification Authority (Nida) identity cards could continue to use their sim cards. Everyone else had their sim cards disconnected from the network.

However, as not all mobile phone users had a national ID card, this has brought Nida in the spotlight. Long queues were seen at its offices across the country, with some accusing it of inefficiency and mediocrity.

Though the law does not state exactly what forms of identity document are required for sim card registration, a variety of documents such as driving licence, passport and even workers IDs were previously being accepted as proof of identity. But new TCRA guidelines insist that anyone registering a sim card “shall be required to present his Nida ID and fingerprint verification” for the registration.

Large queues of people outside Nida offices trying to obtain ID cards with which to register their sim cards. (Citizen website)


The initial deadline for re-registration in compliance with the new guidance was December 31, but this was later extended for twenty days. By January 19, a total of 28.4 million sim cards had registered using official ID cards, leaving over 20 million at risk of being disconnected.

After January 20, the switch off was rolled out gradually. Exact numbers are not yet known, but it is thought that over seven million were disconnected.

The largest mobile phone network in Tanzania, Vodacom Tanzania Plc, issued a profit warning in response to the situation. Around 5 million subscribers (around one third of the firm’s total) did not meet the new registration requirements in time, though many were later able to do so.

“The significant number of barred customers will affect revenue growth. The revenue impact, with the increased compliance cost, will also adversely affect our operating profits,” Vodacom said in their statement.

POLITICS

By Ben Taylor

Are the 2019 local elections a foretaste of 2020?

Police prevent a planned ACT-Wazalendo rally in Mwanga Centre grounds in Kigoma due to “security reasons” (January 2020). Photo – ACT Wazalendo


Local government elections held in November 2019 resulted in overwhelming victories for candidates of the ruling party, CCM, after the leading opposition parties, Chadema and ACT-Wazalendo, boycotted the poll. In the elections – for new village and street chairpersons nationwide – CCM ended up with over 99% of all posts.

Chadema cited “mass disqualification of the party’s candidates” as their main reason. “It’s a sham exercise and the level of brazen irregularities cannot be tolerated,” said party chairman, Freeman Mbowe. Similarly, ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe said his party did not agree with the grounds given by election returning officers for disqualifying their aspirants. Election officials had effectively locked out thousands of opposition candidates over reasons their parties described as flimsy and orchestrated. This include not writing full names, misspellings, blank spaces, improper forms and incorrectly written dates among others. Others could not get forms as officials were found to be unavailable. As a result, even before the boycott, many CCM candidates were standing unopposed.

The diplomatic community, including the US Embassy and UK High Commission expressed their concerns, questioning the credibility of elections without any meaningful opposition participation.

“That is their opinion, but what I know is that the elections were free and fair, and were in line with Tanzanian laws and regulations,” said the Minister of State in the President’s Office for Regional Administration and Local Government, Mr Selemani Jafo.

President Magufuli said the opposition parties exercised their democratic right through boycotting the polls.

Mr Mbowe said it was now the time for a free and independent electoral commission to be established to steer the democratic process away from partisan interests that jeopardise the wellbeing of the nation.

ACT-Wazalendo’s secretary general Dorothy Semu said: “It is time for the opposition parties to join forces to fight against this oppression.”

Dr Aikande Kwayu, an honorary research fellow at the Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin Madison, supported the boycott. “It is a strong political statement expressing the disillusionment with how elections are organised,” she said.

However, Dr Richard Mbunda, a political analyst from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), pointed out that no party has ever withdrawn from an electoral process and succeeded in its plans. “An election is like war and those shortcomings are unavoidable. What the opposition needs to do is to fully prepare to become a competitive side. There would be no cancellation of elections. By opting out, they lose legitimacy before the public,” he said. He added that he understood the reasons given by opposition parties but now was the time to focus on preparing for the next election.

Looking forward to 2020, Dr Kwayu is worried by the trend. “Looking at how the events have unfolded, I get some feeling that there might even be no elections in 2020,” she said.

Chadema leaders expressed similar concerns. “If the laws remain the same, what is happening in the civic elections will have disastrous consequences in the general election,” warned Mr Mrema, Chadema’s director of protocol, communications and foreign affairs.

Whether or not opposition parties repeat their boycott in 2020 remains to be seen. However, all the signs are that space for public debate and political campaigns will remain tightly controlled as the election draws nearer.

In early January, police declined permission for ACT Wazalendo to hold a rally in the constituency of party leader, Zitto Kabwe, while CCM were granted permission for a similar event. Along with most prominent leaders of both ACT Wazalendo and Chadema, Mr Kabwe remains distracted (or more) by ongoing court cases against them.

In September, for example, The Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court found nine Chadema top officials including the party’s national chairman Freeman Mbowe with a case to answer. Mr Mbowe and the eight others face thirteen charges, including sedition.

Further, ACT-Wazalendo chief party advisor and former Vice President of Zanzibar, Mr Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad was interrogated by police in Pemba in January. He was accused of holding an illegal public rally on December 9, 2019 in Michiweni, Pemba. Along with his co-accused, Mr Hamad maintains that they didn’t hold a rally rather they held an internal party meeting to collect views as the party prepares the 2020 election manifesto.

Small shifts in Chadema leadership
Mr Freeman Mbowe has retained his position as Chadema national chairman in an election held on December 18, 2019. Mr Mbowe who has led the party since 2004 scooped 886 votes (equivalent to 93.5%), while his only opponent Mr Cecil Mwambe picked up 59 votes. The last such election was held in 2014.

The same election process saw Chadema legal director Mr Tundu Lissu elected as the new party vice chairman (mainland) after the incumbent Professor Abdallah Safari stepped down. Mr Lissu was elected unopposed after his main competition for the position, the MPs Sophia Mwakagenda and Saed Kubenea both opted to withdraw their candidacies.

Mr Lissu, the former Singida East MP, has been outside the country for two years now after surviving an assassination attempt.

Following his election, Mr Mbowe appointed Kibamba MP John Mnyika as the party’s new secretary general, replacing Dr Vincent Mashinji. He also appointed Mr Benson Kigaila as the party’s new deputy secretary general (Mainland) and retained Mr Salum Mwalimu as the deputy secretary general (Zanzibar).

Further crackdowns on government critics, further criticism of the government on human rights
The list of politicians, journalists and rights activists to have disappeared or been arrested in Tanzania continues to grow. Besides the politicians mentioned above, in the past few months the most notable cases include Tito Magoti of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), and the former President of Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Fatma Karume.

Mr Magoti disappeared in suspicious circumstances shortly before Christmas. His friends and LHRC colleagues stated that a group of six people in plain clothes confronted him, handcuffed him and bundled him into a Toyota Harrier. Only later did police in Dar es Salaam confirm that they were holding Mr Magoti.

The police statement was less than forthcoming, however, not stating what Mr Magoti was accused of having done, nor where he was being held.

LHRC executive director, Anna Henga, said the laws of the country provide for suspects to be granted bail or arraigned in court within 24 hours of arrest, noting that he had already been held for over 48 hours by that point. “He was supposed to be granted bail because it is his right. We will, therefore, use legal and judicial procedures for him to be bailed,” she said. She added that LHRC had visited all the major police stations in the Kinondoni Region looking for Tito, but in vain.

“This has been a growing trend as security organs can arrest civilians secretly and hold them for a long time without information being communicated to families and relatives,” she said. Mr Magoti was eventually charged with money laundering, together with an information technology expert, Mr Theodory Faustine. Under Tanzanian law, this charge does not permit bail.

Erick Kabendera at Kisutu Residents Magistrate Court in Dar es Salaam.

Money laundering is the same charge facing Erick Kabendera, an investigative journalist, who remains in custody since July 2019. In January, he was refused permission to attend his mother’s funeral.

Fatma Karume became a high profile and outspoken critic of President Magufuli during her term from 2018 to 2019 as President of Tanzania’s bar society, TLS. Since then she has become a regular presence in the Tanzanian media and has taken up several constitutional cases to challenge what she sees as the erosion of the rule of law under President Magufuli. She is the granddaughter for the first President of Zanzibar, Abeid Amani Karume and daughter of former Zanzibar President Amani Abeid Karume.

In September, Ms Karume was suspended from practicing as a lawyer in Tanzania by High Court Principal Judge Eliezer Feleshi. The Judge accused her of impropriety in her handling of a particular case, without specifying what exactly she had done.

The case, in which Ms Karume was representing Mr Ado Shaibu, challenged President John Magufuli’s appointment of Prof Adelardus Kilangi as Attorney General. Ms Karume, who was not in court during the ruling was accused of impropriety in her submission, and has since cried foul, saying she was condemned unheard.

Fatma Karume

She later said that suspending her license would not dampen her spirit or stop her from championing social justice, the rule of law and good governance. “You never know what this means and what lies ahead as fate works in many ways. Maybe this is telling me that I will not bring desired change to society via the route of the law in court but elsewhere. Maybe I should be in politics,” she told journalists.

More broadly, the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), a press freedom advocacy group, raised the alarm about violations of press freedom in Tanzania. They noted an increase in threats and interference in editorial independence, including serious violations committed by government authorities, state organs, self-styled activist and non-state actors.

A surprise move by the government came when it withdrew the right of individuals and NGOs to directly file cases against it at the Arusha-based African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, signed the notice of withdrawal of the declaration made under Article 34(6) of the African Court Protocol on November 14. Tanzania becomes the second country after Rwanda to take this step.

The decision came shortly after the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Union’s human rights body, condemned “massive human rights violations” by authorities. In its statement, the commission highlighted a reluctance to investigate serious human rights breaches like that of the disappearance of freelance journalist Azory Gwanda. It also came at a time reports indicate the country had the highest number of cases filed by individuals and NGOs as well as judgments issued against it by the African Court. Out of the 70 decisions issued by the court by September 2019, 28 decisions, or 40%, were on Tanzania.

“The many cases filed against Tanzania at the African Court speak to the abject failure by the country to provide victims of human rights violations adequate and effective remedies nationally”, said Japhet Biegon of Amnesty, a human rights group.

Finally, both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch issued scathing reports in September on the state of human rights in Tanzania. For both organisations, these were the first detailed reports on human rights in Tanzania for many years.

Government actions, noted the reports, have had a chilling effect on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, with people’s censoring actions perceived as critical of the government for fear of prosecution or other reprisals. Amnesty accused the government of President Magufuli of “disembowelling the country’s human rights framework”.

“Tanzania should show true commitment to protecting and fulfilling the rights to freedom of expression and association. The authorities need to put a stop to harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests of activists, journalists, and opposition members,” said Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Mr Ngemela Lubinga, the CCM secretary for International Relations dismissed the reports. He denied any violation of human rights in Tanzania, stressing: “We cannot run our affairs as a nation based on how the international community perceives us. Rather, we will live by the rules and norms of our country as an independent nation. We cannot implement recommendations that are not aimed at creating peace – but aim at dividing the nation.”

The government has previously argued that democratic rights are a secondary consideration, a luxury that should only be given serious attention once more concrete improvements – such as transport infrastructure, power generation, public services and poverty reduction – have been delivered.

Tanzania ranks low for mobile phone protections
Tanzania has some of the harshest SIM card monitoring policies in the world, joining the league of Saudi Arabia and North Korea, according to recently published research. This includes use of fingerprint technology for SIM card registration and other measures that enable the government to track and monitor users and build in-depth profiles of their citizens.
The research, published by Comparitech, a UK-based firm, puts Tanzania in last place out of 150 countries, below even Saudi Arabia (149th) and North Korea (joint 147th with Uganda). The report also notes that Tanzania does not have a comprehensive data protection law.

FEATHERS RUFFLED IN CCM

by Ben Taylor

Selection of newspaper covers from July featuring the developing story

Two former Secretary Generals of the ruling party, CCM, Abdulrahman Kinana and Yusuf Makamba, stirred up a very public argument at the highest levels of the party in July. They wrote a letter to the Elders’ Council, an advisory body within the party, warning of the dangers that “unfounded allegations” in a tabloid newspaper pose to the party’s “unity, solidarity and tranquillity.”

This refers to the frequent allegations by publisher, Mr Cyprian Musiba, in his newspapers and on social media, that several senior figures within the party were involved in a plot to undermine the leadership of President John Magufuli. The supposed plotters named by Mr Musiba include Kinana and Makamba, as well as former Foreign Affairs Minister, Bernard Membe, various opposition leaders, government officials and civil society activists.

Mr Musiba has styled himself as a “media activist” seeking to “defend the President against a plot to sabotage him.” His publications have consistently backed President Magufuli and ferociously attacked many within the party and outside, on the basis of little or no evidence.

Mr Makamba and Mr Kinana, who served as CCM’s secretary generals between 2009 to 2011 and 2012-2018 respectively, called on the party’s elders to intervene. They argued that there must be something else behind Mr Musiba’s accusations, which they think is determined to drive the country “into a precipitous drop.” They suggested that for him to be doing this, he must have protection or even direction from a very high level.

They added that they preferred to seek resolution of the matter by raising it within the party rather than taking legal action against Mr Musiba, as others including Mr Membe have done, saying they want to clear their names rather than seek compensation.

The response from the party was sceptical. The secretary to the Elders Council, Pius Msekwa, former speaker of parliament, said there was little the council could do. Mtera MP, Mr Livingstone Lusinde, said the paid had gone astray and wondered how come they are agitated by the acts whose culture they helped create in the first place. Nzega Urban MP (CCM) Hussein Bashe described the letter as a “plot to deny President Magufuli a chance to contest as second term in 2020” and said it went against the party’s constitution.

More significantly, the current CCM Secretary General Dr Bashiru Ally appeared to take issue with Kinana and Makamba. Without mentioning them by name, he warned of a plot to destabilise the party and said that those behind it would “face the music.” According to newspaper reports, the supposed plot also involves Makamba’s son, January Makamba, himself a significant political figure – see next story – as well as former Ministers Nape Nnauye, William Ngeleja and Bernard Membe.

Rather than helping CCM, Bashiru said, the dispute serves the interests of the opposition. “This is a childish game and it’s not surprising that the opposition loves it. They love childish games,” noted Bashiru. He called on party members to defend their leaders when the political atmosphere “gets dirty”.

Previously, in December 2018, Dr Ally had publicly summoned Mr Membe, saying he wanted to speak to him about reports – published in Mr Musiba’s newspapers – that he wanted to challenge President Magufuli in the 2020 General Election.

Mr Membe has largely stepped back from politics after losing the CCM race for the presidential nomination to Dr Magufuli in 2015. He has largely spent his time outside the country on private business. Thus far, he has said nothing to suggest he would challenge President Magufuli for the CCM ticket in 2020.

Outside the party, ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe commended Mr Kinana’s and Mr Makamba’s letter, saying it transcends party’s interests, touching issues of national interests, especially national security.

Dr Paul Luisulie, a political analyst from the University of Dodoma, said the letter and the reaction to it could be a sign of the failure of CCM’s internal mechanisms to deal with the grievances of those in the party who have concerns with the party’s current leadership. He said the situation could “have very serious consequences” for the unity of the party ahead of elections in 2020. If the letter is ignored, he argued, the authors’ suspicions will be confirmed. “It is very important that CCM give an explanation and work on the grievances that its former leaders have pointed out,” says Dr Luisulie.

A political scientist from the University of Dar es Salaam Dr Richard Mbunda noted that Mr Musiba’s attacks attracted neither protest nor condemnation from either the party or the government. “It is very possible that the person who is steering reforms to the party thinks that getting rid of these bad elements [those with doubts about the party’s leadership] is good for the larger party’s interests. But the consequences will be disastrous if the trend continues unbroken,” he warned.

PLASTIC BAG BAN EARNS MINISTER SACK?

by Ben Taylor

A country-wide ban on plastic bags has perhaps had unexpected con­sequences for the Minister who brought the long-standing proposal to fruition. As of June 2019, Tanzania became the 34th African country to ban importation, production, sale and use of plastic bags, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). A few weeks later, the Minister responsible, January Makamba, was fired.

In his role as Minister of State for Union Matters and the Environment, Mr Makamba had worked for several years to win the support of cabi­net and put the necessary legal reforms in place. In recent months he had conducted a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the ban. The country also issued a notice to travellers that they will have to “sur­render” plastic bags in their possession at airports and other points of entry.

Traders in Dar es Salaam and elsewhere initially reported concerns that alternatives were more expensive and not as easily available as plastic bags had been. They also complained that they had found themselves with little choice but to burn their remaining stock of plastic bags to avoid problems with the authorities.

Nevertheless, more recent reports suggest that alternative containers had become more readily available. A resident of Dar es Salaam, Ms Rehema Mbiku, said that “the government has done a good thing because the plastic bags were polluting the environment.”

Immediately following the introduction of the ban, President John Magufuli made a surprise visit to a fish market sporting a wicker basket in a move to support the ban. However, his support for Mr Makamba did not last long.

Explaining his decision to fire Mr Makamba, President Magufuli com­plained that it actually took four years for the ban to be implemented. “The Vice President spoke about it. The Prime Minister spoke about it. There has been a lot of dillydallying until I issued an ultimatum,” he said.

The President also complained of sluggishness in the way tasks were being handled at the Ministry. “Investors are exposed to a lot of delays in accessing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificates.” Some observers pointed to other factors, however. Mr Makamba is regarded as a potential successor of President Magufuli, and some argued that his widely praised ban on plastic bags was seen at high levels of the party as an attempt to gain political mileage.

Others noted that it is alleged that Makamba had played a role in the letter written by his father, the former CCM Secretary General Yusuf Makamba, complaining of his treatment in the media (see previous story). It is also alleged that January Makamba is a leading figure in the supposed plot to prevent President Magufuli from serving a second term.

At the same time as Mr Makamba was fired, a new Minister of Agriculture was appointed, Hussein Bashe. It may or may not be relevant that Mr Bashe was among the most vocal critics of Kinana and Yusuf Makamba following their letter to party elders (see previous story).

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST ARRESTED

by Ben Taylor

Erick Kabendera, a leading Tanzanian investigative journalist whose articles have been published around the world, was arrested in July, prompting widespread criticism.

Kabendera, who has written for The Guardian, The Independent and Economist Intelligence Unit in the UK, as well as the East African and several Tanzanian newspapers. His work has been notable for his will­ingness to report facts that embarrass the government, and he has also been a prominent critic of President Magufuli’s government on social media.

The situation with Kabendera’s arrest remained unclear for several days. He was picked up from his home by unknown people in a vehi­cle with no number plate. His whereabouts was initially unknown, prompting alarm among his friends and family.

Two days later, the government admitted having detained Kabendera, and pointed to immigration concerns – that he might not be a Tanzanian citizen. Similar allegations have been made in the past, though the Immigration Department at the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a state­ment in 2013 clarifying that Mr Kabendera and his parents were indeed citizens of Tanzania.

Immigration concerns were soon dropped, however, to be replaced by allegations that Kabendera had contravened the Cybercrime Act through his work with the Economist Intelligence Unit. These new claims did not make it onto the eventual charge sheet either, which instead contains charges of money laundering, tax evasion and organ­ised crime. Money laundering is a non-bailable offence in Tanzania, and the journalist is therefore likely to spend several months behind bars even before his case is heard.

Kabendera’s lawyer, Jebra Kambole, said that the questioning since his arrest indicated that the real reason Kabendera had been detained was his work as a journalist.

The case drew strong criticism from pro-democracy campaigners and press freedom advocates. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote a public letter to President Magufuli, arguing that “the public commitments that Tanzania has made to press freedom will remain empty words without urgent action,” and urging the government to drop the charges against Kabendera.

The UK government also expressed its concern, in a statement issued jointly by the British High Commission and the US Embassy in Tanzania. The statement referred to the “steady erosion of due process in the justice system in Tanzania,” citing frequent resort to lengthy pre­trial detentions and shifting charges.

“The irregular handling of the arrest, detention, and indictment of investigative journalist Erick Kabendera, including the fact that he was denied access to a lawyer in the early stages of his detention, (is) contrary to the Criminal Procedures Act,” the statement read. It con­cludes by urging the Tanzania government “to guarantee due process to each of its citizens, which it has recognized as a basic human right as signatory to multiple UN Human Rights Conventions, among them the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.”

Emmanuel Buhohela, spokesman at Tanzania’s foreign affairs ministry, said that the matter regarding Kabendera is before the country’s courts of law. “They [the diplomats] should let justice follow its due course,” he told Reuters news agency.

MAXENCE MELO AWARDED GLOBAL PRESS FREEDOM PRIZE

Tanzanian journalist Maxence Melo

The work of Tanzanian journalist Maxence Melo has been recognised by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), who presented him with their 2019 International Press Freedom Award.
Melo is the owner and co-founder of Jamii Forums, a popular website and discussion forum that hosts frank debates, mostly in Kiswahili on topics including politics and corruption in Tanzania.

In 2016, Jamii Forums’ office was raided by Tanzanian security forces, and Melo was detained for interrogation. After being held for eight days, he was charged with managing a domain not registered in Tanzania and obstruction for refusing to disclose the identities of Jamii Forums’ users.

In 2017, Melo appeared in court 81 times. He continues to fight in Tanzanian court to clear his name.