Dar es Salaam. President John Magufuli has sparked a backlash over the controversial contents of his speech to the Association of Local Authorities of Tanzania (Alat) annual general meeting on Tuesday, with some critics saying his remarks exposed “double standards” on key issues.
Reacting to the speech, many pointed to the seemingly contradictory statements the Head of State made to the hundreds of Alat delegates at the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere International Conference Centre in Dar es Salaam.
Mr Richard Mbunda, a political science lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, described the speech as one that “lacked consistency”.
“The President should stick to using written speeches for the sake of consistency,” he said.
One of the issues that have drawn the ire of many is the President’s statement on salary increments. Dr Magufuli said he was not elected to increase public servants’ pay, but rather to work for poor people.
“The salary issue could have been clarified better in a written speech to avoid controversy,” said Mr Mbunda in a telephone interview with The Citizen.
And yesterday, the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (Tucta) lashed out at the President’s speech saying it had left them with the impression that his government was out of touch with reality.
Dr Yahya Msigwa, the Tucta secretary general, told The Citizen in an interview that the speech showed that “something was wrong somewhere in government”.
“It seems the government is not well-advised, and this is reflected in the thousands of complaints the congress receives daily,” he said.
The trade union chief said this was not the first time that such “controversial remarks” had been made. He called for an urgent tripartite meeting between the government, Tucta and employers’ representatives before they are “demoralised”.
There was also a strong reaction from various quarters after President Magufuli used the platform to once again defend Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda, who has been accused of possessing forged academic certificates.
In what some critics have described as a shocking contradiction to his stance on fake certificates, the President told Alat delegates that he was not bothered by the controversy surrounding the academic credentials of Mr Makonda, as long as he performed well in the war against drugs.
Dr Magufuli dismissed the accusations as a ploy to tarnish the RC’s image over the crackdown on drugs.
“Even if he were not able to read ‘a’, provided he succeeds in the war against drugs, he’s a learned person as far as I am concerned,” the President said in his speech, adding that the so-called learned had failed to deliver.
University of Dar es Salaam political science lecturer Dr Bashiru Ally said “double standards” should be avoided on the issue of academic qualifications for civil servants.
“Regardless of performance, a public servant lacking qualifications should be dismissed from service,” he said, and quickly pointed out that Mr Makonda’s performance cannot be selectively used to shield him from scrutiny.
He said it was also time that the RC came out to publicly prove his innocence in a matter that has twice roped in the Head of State.
But Dr Ally said he sees no controversy in the salaries issue.
Mr Benjamin Nkonya, chief executive officer of the Consortium for Independent Education Providers in Sub Saharan Africa (CIEPSSA), also weighed in on the issue. He defended the President saying while professionalism is important, the ability to deliver is what matters the most for public servants.
According to him, public servants like the Prime Minister, RCs and district commissioners are required to have the ability to deliver.
“I will be surprised if he (the President) sacks ministers, RCs or DCs over their academic concerns,” he said in a telephone interview, nevertheless adding that he praised the President for sacking 12,000 public servants over the fake certificates saga.
The opposition also took a swipe at the speech.
In a statement Tuesday, Chadema communications officer Tumaini Makene said the remarks “worsened the pains and bitterness” instead of providing “hope and consolation” to the people.
“People are doubting the sincerity of sacking thousands of public servants over fake certificates and whether or not the President was serious when he revoked the admission of unqualified students enrolled for the special teaching diploma programme at the University of Dodoma (UDOM) students,” reads part of statement. ACT-Wazalendo secretary for ideology, communication and publicity Ado Shaibu said the President’s statements contradict remarks he made while seeking votes ahead of the 2015 general election – that he would take care of workers’ welfare; on Workers Day – when he gave hope of a salary increment, and through Ms Angellah Kairuki, the minister of State in the President’s Office responsible for Public Service Management and Good Governance, who told Parliament this year that money had been set aside for a pay rise.
On the Makonda issue, Mr Shaibu said: “Mr Makonda is accused of using another person’s academic certificates, that’s where the conflict is. It’s not about whether he is educated or not.”