AU and SADC must act on Tanzania
When he took office three years ago Tanzania’s President John Magufuli looked as if he would positively differentiate himself from the strongmen and kleptocrats who run some of Africa’s countries.
He immediately moved to curb government excesses by cutting the size of Cabinet, forcing ministers and bureaucrats to drive cheaper vehicles, banning unnecessary overseas jaunts and even cancelling Independence Day celebrations and redirecting the money to anti-cholera projects.
The world applauded. Tanzanians, so used to profligacy at the top, fell in love with Magufuli and nicknamed him The Bulldozer for the forceful manner he used to push through his programme. The love affair was not to last long.
The Bulldozer soon began bullying opposition and civil society. He became an authoritarian leader of his own governing party.
During his tenure there has been a concerted crackdown on gay people. The “breath of fresh air” leader discouraged birth control because, he said, that was for lazy people who are scared to work to feed large families; and he threatened to ban girls who fell pregnant from returning to school.
In the tinpot dictatorship that Magufuli is creating the media has naturally been in his sights. Media outlets have been shut down, journalists harassed and threatened, and the press has been warned by Magufuli to “be careful, watch it”.
This week South African journalist Angela Quintal and her Kenyan counterpart Muthoki Mumo, who were in the country working for the Committee to Protect Journalists, were inexplicably detained, an example of Magufuli’s attitude towards media freedom, human rights and democracy.
The African Union (AU) and the SA Development Community (SADC) must not stand by idly while another country slides backwards and drags the continent with it.