Wednesday, February 4, 2015

To next president: wananchi won’t tolerate incompetence

By Kelvin Matandiko,Political Platform Correspondent

Dar es Salaam. The next President beware! Tanzanians are a changed lot and can no longer entertain an underperforming or corrupt government.

That is the impression analysts and independent commentators get from the historic cabinet reshuffle President Jakaya Kikwete has made under his mandate.

Speaking to Political Platform analysts said the point to the fact that people’s patience on corruption, embezzlement and sheer incompetence by public officials is running out.

President Kikwete’s performance in office is yet to be fully assessed because he has about nine months left in office. However he has already become the first country to change ministers too often since President Ali Hassan Mwinyi took office in 1985.

An analysis done by the Mwananchi Newspaper last week revealed that President Kikwete has made seven cabinet reshuffles and mini-reshuffles in the nine years that he has been in office. This is equivalent to one reshuffle every fourteen months and they exclude the mandatory reshuffles he did in early 2006 after taking office and 2010 after his re-election.

In all those reshuffles President Kikwete has dropped 60 ministers and deputy ministers. The first reshuffle was done in October 2006. In this reshuffle “senior ministers”, some of whom had been in cabinet since the 1970s were dropped “after they requested the President to let them retire.” The purpose of the mini-reshuffle was done to increase efficiency after the country faced sever power shortages.

The second mini-reshuffle was done in February 2007 after the then Foreign Affairs minister Dr Asha-Rose Migiro was appointed as deputy UN secretary general. Another minister had died in a plane crash.

The third reshuffle was done by President Kikwete in February 2008 after the resignation of Prime Minister Edward Lowassa and two other cabinet ministers following the Richmond scandal.

The same year Andrew Chenge resigned from his post of as cabinet minister prompting a mini-reshuffle.

In May 2012 and January 2014 there were other mini-reshuffles prompted by embezzlement and scandals including human rights violations during the anti-poaching campaign dubbed Operation Tokomeza. And the final mini-reshuffle was last month after the minister for Land, Housing and Human Settlement Development Prof Anna Tibaijuka was sacked and her Energy and Minerals counterpart Prof Sospeter Muhongo resigned.

Most of the reshuffles were undertaken after pressure from Parliament. But independent analysts say legislators seem obliged to take action to go with the mood in their constituencies.

A senior NCCR-Mageuzi cadre Samuel Ruhuza is of the view that the many reshuffles done were because it has become more difficult to hide wrongdoing in government due to a vibrant opposition in Parliament, aggressive civil society, media plurality and a more enlightened  citizenry.

Mr Ruhuza served as Secretary General of NCCR said in the 1990s or even early 2000 it was possible for the government to hide wrongdoing and incompetence of its ministers because the government was much more closed, operating in a kind of secrecy that was difficult for the largely government and ruling party owned media to penetrate.

“Nowadays you have educated Tanzanians who question things using various forums including the mass media. MPs are also at the forefront of putting the government to task. The Parliamentary Committees are doing a fine job so far,” Mr Ruhuza noted.

A former cabinet minister and currently an opposition legislator from on the ticket of CUF (Wawi) Hamad Rashi Mohammed recalls that during the Mwl Julius Nyerere era there were similar reshuffles.

He says Mwl Nyerere did not hesitate to fire or replace cabinet ministers for the interests of the state.

He recalls that when he was the deputy minister in the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1983 his boss the minister for Home Affairs Said Natepe was in a tour of Kigoma region when prisoners, locked-up on charges of treason escaped from a prison.

“When he returned from his tour we advised him to prepare a resignation letter which he did. So when he went to report the prison escape to President Nyerere at the State House the first thing the President asked him was his resignation letter,” Mr Mohammethd told Political Platform.

President Nyerere told him that he knew he had no directed responsibility over the escape of the prisoners but as the cabinet minister under whose portfolio the prisons were he had to take political responsibility.

Mr Mohammed said other prominent politicians who had to resign for political responsibility include former President Mwinyi and former Mufindi MP Joseph Mungai.

Even himself Mr Mohammed was ultimately sacked from his post as deputy minister.

Penina Mlama, the chairperson of the Mwl Julius Nyerere professorial chair at the University of Dar es Salaam said the numerous reshuffles should be a wakeup call to presidential aspirants. They must understand that the Tanzanians they want to lead are changing and becoming more aware of their rights.

“People want development now. They want better lives and so they have little patience to public officials who seem unable to mobilise resources and facilitate development,” she noted.

The presidential aspirants must ask themselves twice if they are up to the job that is becoming more and more demanding as people’s aspirations and expectations increase.

Commentators hope last month’s would be the last reshuffle before President Kikwete leaves Ikulu, but given the trend it would not be surprising if another one would be in the coming few months down the line.