Thursday, January 11, 2018

JPM, Lowassa spark debate


By Ephrahim Bahemu and Fidelis Butahe

Dar es Salaam. Controversy has arisen among opposition politicians as they reacted to the decision by former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa to pay a visit to State House on Tuesday where he praised President John Magufuli’s efforts directed at various development projects.

Singida East MP Tundu Lissu described Mr Lowassa’s decision to publicly commend the President as “unacceptable”, arguing that this would have a negative impact on the opposition.

Mr Lissu, who is currently in Belgium for specialised medical treatment, made the condemnation in his statement issued online on Wednesday. He said he was disappointed after Mr Lowassa held talks with President Magufuli without first consulting with Chadema national chairman Freeman Mbowe.

“After listening to Mr Mbowe’s comments about the matter, I came to realise that Lowassa apparently did not consult the chairman over his decision to visit the President,” said Mr Lissu.

He added: “I’m aware that the two leaders together recently paid a visit on the ailing veteran politician Kingunge Ngombale-Mwiru at (the Muhimbili National) hospital. I wonder why he (Lowassa) didn’t consult the chairman (on the State House visit).

“In the current situation where the government upholds unconducive environment against the opposition, it does not make sense to me to hear someone publicly commending anyone,” Mr Lissu stated.

For his part, Arusha Regional Commissioner Mrisho Gambo expressed what he said was his opinion and suggested that Mr Mbowe and another opposition politician, Arusha MP Godbless Lema, “are simply jealous of Lowassa” for being accorded the rare opportunity for talks with the President and national chairman of the ruling political party, Dr Magufuli.

“Mr Lowassa was grateful to have had the privilege of speaking (directly) with President Magufuli. He is glad to have had such a rare chance yesterday. I, therefore, urge Mbowe and Lema to follow proper procedures if they also want to have an audience with the President,” Mr Mrisho said in an exclusive interview with The Citizen.

When asked to clarify whether or not he was the one who arranged – or in any way coordinated – Mr Lowassa’s visit to State House, Mr Gambo said: “What I can say is that President Magufuli has finally responded to Mr Lowassa’s long-time quest.”

Mr Lowassa’s call at State House in Dar es Salaam came at a time of seemingly endless tensions between the political opposition and the government.

Although, observers have been quick to insist that Mr Lowassa’s exchanges with the president were personal between the two leaders – and were not for public consumption – one thing is clear: Mr Lowassa roundly commended President Magufuli for creating jobs and providing free education to Tanzanian children, among other things.

For his part, the national chairman of the ‘Chama cha Ukombozi wa Umma’ (Chauma), Mr Hashim Rungwe, said he had no problem with Mr Lowassa’s visit to State House – thoughtfully adding that every Tanzanian has the right to meet the president in person.