Dar es Salaam. President John Magufuli said yesterday that elections were over and the Opposition should wait for 2020. Speaking at State House after receiving the official report of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) on the 2015 General Election, Dr Magufuli said he would not let politics distract him from his endeavour to deliver on his campaign promises. He urged Tanzanians to focus on building the nation, saying elections were over and there was no time for cheap and divisive politics.
“We can’t allow people to politicise each and everything, every day. When will the people work and build the nation? After the elections, Tanzanians are eager to see changes, and we’re going to realise that only through hard work.”
But the Opposition dismissed President Magufuli’s remarks as unconstitutional, saying they smacked of political intolerance.
Dr Magufuli said politicians should either articulate their agendas and ideas in Parliament and other official forums or wait for the next campaign period in 2020.
However, the Opposition has resolved to boycott all parliamentary sessions chaired by Deputy Speaker Tulia Ackson, whom it accuses of undermining opposition lawmakers.
As if the Opposition’s woes in Parliament were not enough, the Police Force earlier this month slapped an indefinite ban on political rallies for “security reasons”. Chadema has challenged the ban in court.
ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe told The Citizen yesterday that Dr Magufuli’s remarks amounted to a declaration of war on democracy and political pluralism in the country.
“It’s now the right time for opposition parties and civil society to join hands and speak with one voice. Telling us to wait for the 2020 elections is to attempt to kill democracy and suppress our constitutional rights. That is unacceptable. We should not let anyone, even the President, kill our democracy,” said the Kigoma Urban MP, who has been suspended from Parliament for misconduct.
NCCR-Mageuzi chairman James Mbatia said Dr Magufuli’s remarks were “inconsequential” because they were in direct contravention of both the Political Parties Act and the Constitution.
“Both the Political Parties Act and the Constitution grant the people, not just political parties, the right of assembly. The President is a product of the Constitution, and has sworn to defend it. He’s by no means above the law.” Mr Mbatia said it was not the first time a head of state had issued such a directive.
“In 1996, then President Benjamin Mkapa issued similar directives, but we (the Opposition) opposed it with all our might, and he eventually backed off,” said the Vunjo MP.
Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe said if the President was not happy with the current political system, he should petition Parliament to amend the Constitution and outlaw political pluralism.
“It is regrettable that the President can utter such remarks. He is expected to adhere to the Constitution at all times. He should know that he can’t and won’t silence us. He should also understand that politics is full-time work. All these parties have permanent staff, and this means that politics is work also...it is a livelihood.”
Earlier, NEC chairman Damian Lubuva told Dr Magufuli that the focus was now on preparations for the referendum on the Proposed Constitution.
“NEC and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission will jointly review the Referendum Act, 2013, which has been overtaken by events after the vote was postponed last year. We will submit our suggestions to the government to pave the way for a bill seeking to amend the Act to be tabled in Parliament,” he said.
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