The Star Early Edition

Keep­ing tight grip on reins of power

Tan­za­nian Pres­i­dent Magu­fuli is clearly not just wag­ing war on cor­rup­tion – but on democ­racy too, Dan Page writes

- Dan Paget, DPhil Pol­i­tics (African elec­toral pol­i­tics), Univer­sity of Ox­ford Corruption · Latin America News · Politics · Elections · Crime · Tanzania · Ministry of Finance of the People's Republic of China · United Front · Julius Nyerere · John Magufuli · Chama Cha Mapinduzi · Edward Lowassa · Civic United Front · Tanganyika · Jakaya Kikwete · Jakaya Kikwete · African Barrick Gold · Barrick Gold · Chadema · Tundu Lissu · Sospeter Muhongo · Andrew Chenge

THERE were scarcely any hints of the tu­mul­tuous years that would fol­low the swear­ing-in of Dr John Pombe Magu­fuli on Novem­ber 5, 2015 as Tan­za­nia’s fifth pres­i­dent. Af­ter all, his Chama cha Mapin­duzi (CCM) had been in power for decades, and his vic­tory seemed to her­ald con­ti­nu­ity with the past.

In fact, Magu­fuli’s op­po­nent at­tracted more at­ten­tion dur­ing the cam­paign than Magu­fuli.

When Ed­ward Lowassa de­fected from the CCM to the op­po­si­tion and ran for pres­i­dent against his old party, it looked fleet­ingly as though the elite split might spell the end of the party’s dom­i­nance.

Magu­fuli has not brought con­ti­nu­ity, but dra­matic change. He be­gan to im­press just days af­ter his in­au­gu­ra­tion. He made a snap unan­nounced visit to the Min­istry of Fi­nance on his first day as pres­i­dent.

Then he pulled funds in­tended for In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tions and redi­rected them to anti-cholera operations. He be­gan a shake-up of the Tan­za­nia Port Author­ity, and ex­tended it to the Tan­za­nia Rev­enue Author­ity as he launched a tax col­lec­tion drive. An au­dit of the pub­lic pay­roll led to a purge of “ghost work­ers”.

Quickly, it be­came ap­par­ent that he was gen­uinely wag­ing war on cor­rup­tion in the Tan­za­nian state.

The pri­mary vic­tims of these anti-cor­rup­tion operations have been mid- and low-rank­ing civil ser­vants.

How­ever, Magu­fuli has taken on high elites in CCM se­lec­tively too. In May, he fired Min­is­ter of En­ergy and Min­er­als Sospeter Muhongo. In June, CCM MP An­drew Chenge found him­self fac­ing gov­ern­ment pros­e­cu­tors in court. Both were linked to a ma­jor cor­rup­tion case, the Escrow Scan­dal in 2014.

This thrift and in­tol­er­ance for cor­rup­tion won Magu­fuli at­ten­tion and ad­mi­ra­tion world­wide.

In the so­cial me­dia sphere, com­men­ta­tors cel­e­brated his zeal play­fully with the hash­tag, “#WhatWouldM­agu­fuliDo”.

But since early last year, it has be­come ap­par­ent that Magu­fuli is not just wag­ing war on cor­rup­tion – he was also declar­ing war on democ­racy.

Magu­fuli has over­seen nu­mer­ous clo­sures and sus­pen­sions of me­dia out­lets. His of­fi­cials have en­cour­aged and tried to ex­ac­er­bate a split in the Civic United Front, by back­ing one side. His gov­ern­ment has un­der­mined ju­di­cial and par­lia­men­tary in­de­pen­dence, im­ple­mented a par­tial ban on pub­lic ral­lies, ha­rassed MPs, closed on­line po­lit­i­cal space, and pros­e­cuted crit­ics un­der new defama­tion and sedi­tion laws.

To­gether, these con­sti­tute ma­jor in­fringe­ments on the free­dom of ex­pres­sion and the op­po­si­tion’s abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with vot­ers.

In March he an­nounced at a press con­fer­ence: “Me­dia own­ers, let me tell you: ‘Be care­ful. Watch it. If you think you have that kind of free­dom – not to that ex­tent”.

In part, this re­pres­sive streak is a re­turn to form. CCM has a long his­tory of au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism. It has ruled Tan­za­nian un­in­ter­rupted since 1977, and its pre­de­ces­sor par­ties ruled Tan­ganyika since 1961.

But there is a more im­me­di­ate rea­son that Magu­fuli is tight­en­ing the noose on the op­po­si­tion. The op­po­si­tion has never been so strong. In 2005, CCM’s Jakaya Kik­wete won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion with an unas­sail­able lead of 68% over the run­ner-up. By 2015, CCM’s mar­gin of vic­tory had been short­ened to 18%. For the first time in Tan­za­nia’s his­tory, the op­po­si­tion is a force to be reck­oned with.

The most plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for Magu­fuli’s au­thor­i­tar­ian turn is that he is try­ing to min­imise the pos­si­bil­ity of an op­po­si­tion vic­tory in the fu­ture. Equally, ev­ery time he ad­vances the anti-cor­rup­tion agenda, he makes more ene­mies who might de­fect to the op­po­si­tion. By nar­row­ing space for op­po­si­tion, he re­duces the risk of them do­ing so.

But Magu­fuli is not only re­ly­ing on re­pres­sive means to stay in power. He is also pur­su­ing a pro­gramme that re­vives his popularity.

The third and most re­cent theme in his pres­i­dency has been a con­fronta­tion with multi­na­tional min­ing com­pa­nies.

The con­tro­versy that kick-started that was the al­leged dis­cov­ery that Aca­cia Min­ing has been un­der-re­port­ing its min­eral ex­ports ear­lier this year. Magu­fuli has ar­gued that multi­na­tional min­ing com­pa­nies have been steal­ing Tan­za­nia’s re­sources for years.

Based on the claims, the gov­ern­ment charged Aca­cia Min­ing with fines and back­dated taxes amount­ing to $190 billion (R2.7 tril­lion). Magu­fuli even threat­ened to na­tion­alise the mines. His strat­egy of brinkman­ship worked.

On Oc­to­ber 19, Aca­cia’s par­ent com­pany Bar­rick Gold an­nounced that it had reached an agree­ment with the Tan­za­nian gov­ern­ment. It promised to find ways to fur­ther process cop­per-gold ores in Tan­za­nia, in­stead of ex­port­ing them for smelt­ing, and it made a num­ber of pe­cu­niary con­ces­sions.

There is a strate­gic thread that ties to­gether Magu­fuli’s ac­tions.

Tan­za­nia’s fifth Five-Year Plan re­stores in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion to the heart of gov­ern­ment pol­icy in a way un­seen since the 1970s. Do­mes­tic pro­cess­ing and tax rev­enue is cen­tral to that plan. So is gov­ern­ment dis­ci­pline, thrift and tax col­lec­tion. The clo­sure of po­lit­i­cal space keeps CCM in power to im­ple­ment it, and suf­fo­cates in­ter­nal op­po­si­tion to his re­forms.

But the de­fin­i­tive fea­ture of Magu­fuli’s first two years has been a tal­ent for pur­su­ing his pro­gramme of re­form while pur­su­ing do­mes­tic popularity at the same time.

His taste for the dra­matic has caught pub­lic at­ten­tion and his will­ing­ness to dis­turb the sta­tus quo has con­vinced many that his in­ten­tions are more sin­cere than those of his pre­de­ces­sors.

Per­haps more than any other pres­i­dent since Tan­za­nia’s found­ing fa­ther, Julius Ny­erere, Magu­fuli is seen as a man of in­tegrity.

While he has skil­fully cou­pled pop­u­lar pol­i­tics with fun­da­men­tal re­form, he has also pre­cip­i­tated a se­ries of un­in­tended changes which might be slip­ping be­yond his con­trol.

His de­mands from com­pa­nies have un­ques­tion­able merit, but they are also mak­ing busi­nesses think twice about op­er­at­ing in Tan­za­nia. For ex­am­ple, a num­ber of oil com­pa­nies are due to be­gin ne­go­ti­a­tions about de­vel­op­ing off­shore gas fields.

Af­ter the de­ba­cle with min­ing com­pa­nies they know that they will not get an easy deal, but they might also doubt the word of a gov­ern­ment that has in ef­fect torn up con­tracts, and re­peat­edly placed the pres­i­dent at the cen­tre of con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tion.

Equally, by putting such pres­sure on the op­po­si­tion, Magu­fuli might make it stronger. At­tempts to di­vide the sec­ond op­po­si­tion party, the Civic United Front, might drive them closer to Chadema.

They might also un­in­ten­tion­ally make mar­tyrs of the op­po­si­tion. An as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt trans­formed op­po­si­tion politi­cian Tundu Lissu into a na­tional hero.

It is not known who was be­hind the drive-by shoot­ing in which at least 28 shots were fired and Lissu hos­pi­talised, but Lissu was among the most vo­cal op­po­nents of the gov­ern­ment.

He was be­ing tried in court for sedi­tion just days be­fore he was shot. No mat­ter who was be­hind the at­tack, it is fast be­com­ing the pub­lic im­age for the ex­tremes of po­lit­i­cal change in Tan­za­nia un­der Magu­fuli.

Many un­der­es­ti­mated Magu­fuli at his in­au­gu­ra­tion two years ago, but few do now. While Magu­fuli’s elec­tion rep­re­sents the con­tin­u­a­tion of CCM rule, he has brought about pro­found change. Only time will tell whether the in­tended or the un­in­tended con­se­quences of his ac­tions will be those that de­fine his legacy. - The Con­ver­sa­tion

 ?? PIC­TURE: KHAL­FAN SAID/AP ?? CHANGE, HIS WAY: Tan­za­nian Pres­i­dent John Pombe Magu­fuli holds up a cer­e­mo­nial spear and shield to sig­nify the begin­ning of his pres­i­dency, at Uhuru Sta­dium in Dar es Salaam, Tan­za­nia on Novem­ber 5, 2015. In­tol­er­ance for cor­rup­tion and thrift has won...
PIC­TURE: KHAL­FAN SAID/AP CHANGE, HIS WAY: Tan­za­nian Pres­i­dent John Pombe Magu­fuli holds up a cer­e­mo­nial spear and shield to sig­nify the begin­ning of his pres­i­dency, at Uhuru Sta­dium in Dar es Salaam, Tan­za­nia on Novem­ber 5, 2015. In­tol­er­ance for cor­rup­tion and thrift has won...

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