In the footsteps of Mwalimu …

> Phyllis Johnson

Tanzania’s new president has called for peace and national unity, and vowed to fight corruption that he says has cost the country billions of shillings.

Dr John Pombe Magufuli, who was expected to be inaugurated on 5 November, said his election victory is a clear indication that the war on graft has officially started and anyone who has stolen public funds must pay up before his administration catches up with them.

He said laziness and poor service delivery must come to an end, especially in the public service.

“My government will put emphasis on fighting corruption, job creation and industrialisation,” he pledged on the day before the election, promising to end power shortages and to exploit the country’s natural gas discoveries.

“I promise to deliver on my election pledges, but we need to work together. Let us strive for peace and national unity.”

Colleagues say the president-elect is action-oriented and his words should be heeded as he has the courage to fight corruption at any level and to accelerate development and industrial transformation, adhering to the principles of the country’s revered founding father, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

Magufuli is a “popular character, blunt and brusque but gets things done.”  He is a scientist and government infrastructure activist who has served in various cabinet posts, including twice as Minister of Works.

He also served as Minister of Livestock Development and Fisheries, and of Lands and Human Settlements, but his main achievements are in his passion for infrastructure development, especially the rural and feeder road networks which improved significantly during his time as minister, and the Mtwara Corridor in southern Tanzania.

Magufuli, 56, earned the name Tinga (tractor or bulldozer) for his performance as Minister of Works in driving a programme to build roads across the vast country of 52 million people that is a founder member of the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as the African Union.

He has a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Dar es Salaam, and has served as a Member of Parliament for the past 20 years, representing his Chato constituency in the gold-mining district of Geita in northwestern Tanzania near Lake Victoria. He contested the 25 October election as the candidate of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), winning 58.46 percent of the total votes cast.

The nearest rival, Chadema’s Edward Lowassa, collected 39.97 percent.

Lowassa is a wealthy businessman and former CCM cabinet minister and prime minister who resigned in disgrace after parliament exposed corrupt activities, which he denies. Despite this exposure, he proceeded to contest the CCM leadership in July, but was far down the list, failing to make the shortlist of candidates after scrutiny by the party ethics committee, which was pared down to five candidates by the central committee, observed by an advisory council of party elders.

Those with criminal records or corrupt behaviour were removed, and the selection process considered each candidate’s track record, education, profession and political outlook, including engagement and approach to party activities.

After failing to gain the nomination in July, Lowassa left CCM to head a coalition of opposition parties with the title of Coalition of the Defenders of the People’s Constitution (Ukawa).

As has become customary in national elections, the opposition said the vote was rigged and claimed victory. Lowassa refused to recognise the result, alleging that the electronic system used to tally votes had been manipulated and complaining that the way the National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced the presidential results favoured CCM.

However, a joint statement from African and other international observers, including the African Union and European Union, said the polls were carried out in a “competent and largely efficient” manner, adding that any small operational flaws did not impact on the overall result.

The counting was continuing (at the time of writing) for seats in parliament and local authorities, with CCM taking a commanding lead, although its majority in the national assembly could be reduced, and some prominent party figures lost their seats, not unusual in Tanzanian elections.

The biggest loss for CCM is in urban areas including the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, a traditional CCM stronghold. The Civic United Front (CUF) won in Kinondoni and Temeke, urban constituencies considered thoroughly CCM. This is where the opposition coalition targeted its resources among the unemployed urban youth.

CCM is the longest serving political party in government on the continent. This is the party of Mwalimu Nyerere who led the country to independence 54 years ago as the president of this party under its previous name, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), and thereafter supported the liberation of other countries in southern Africa from colonial rule, including Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

He was a visionary and principled leader who set high standards of behaviour and expected the same from his party and government. He often said to Tanzanians when they thought a task was too difficult – “It can be done. Play your part.”

Nyerere also had a vision of peace, stability and development of the African continent through unity of purpose, and he was one of the founders of the African Union.

He said that his generation of leaders was dedicated to the political liberation of Africa from colonial rule, and the challenge to the next generation would be economic.

Tanzania’s stability is credited to Nyerere’s legacy, including the unique Union that allows Zanzibar to have its own president and parliament while participating fully in the Union presidency and parliament with the mainland.

Under Mwalimu’s leadership, mainland Tanganyika joined with the islands of Zanzibar in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania, and the ruling party later changed its name to CCM to incorporate members in both places.

This unity has been maintained for more than 50 years, but is under threat from some local parties with external support due to the strategic location of the islands in the Indian Ocean. The current elections in Zanzibar for the local structures of president and parliament were annulled due to irregularities and will be rescheduled.

The Zanzibar Electoral Commission made the announcement citing breaches of the electoral law, after the opposition candidate declared himself the winner before any results were announced and several constituencies reported more ballots than voters.

Zanzibaris essentially have two votes in the elections. They vote for their own president and parliament. They vote also for the Union president and parliament, and they are represented in both.

The vice-president of the Union is traditionally from Zanzibar, and this time is no exception as Magufuli’s “running mate”, Samia Suluhu Hassan, will become the first woman vice-president of the United Republic of Tanzania.

This was the first presidential selection to take place without the direct influence of Mwalimu Nyerere, who died in October 1999.

After leading his country to independence, he served for 24 years in office, working on building the nation and against colonial rule as chair of the Frontline States, before setting his vision on closer cooperation among developing countries, chairing first the South Commission and then the South Centre.

He endorsed the candidacy of Benjamin Mkapa in 1995, and advised Jakaya Kikwete to wait for the next round, which he did. Mkapa was elected in a landslide and served as president for two terms, as did Kikwete, who was first elected in 2005. The current Tanzanian constitution restricts serving presidents to two five-year terms. Magufuli is Tanzania’s fifth president. – sardc.net

November 2015
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