Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Magufuli’s reforms are not cosmetic ... one step at a time

President John Magufuli leads a Cabinet meeting

President John Magufuli leads a Cabinet meeting at State House in Dar es Salaam. Are the changes he has embarked on making just cosmetic or real? Intellectuals debate by analysing various aspects of Magufuli administration’s development model. PHOTO | FILE 

By Prof. Mramba Nyindo

I was immediately tempted to read the ‘JPM and Cosmetic Reforms, a 2016 In Review’ by Damas Kanyabwoya@The Citizen Tz, dkanyabwoya@tz.nation which appeared in The Citizen on Wednesday, 4 January 2017.

The title of the article where the word cosmetic is embedded catches the eye of an avid reader. It implies that President Magufuli, in 2016, has been making cosmetic reforms at the expense of real reforms which to Damas would include embarking on drafting a new constitution. As applied here the word cosmetic could mean cheating or substituting a less important subject in place of a better one.

Damas fails to appreciate that embarking on making constitutional reforms is not as hard as embarking on reforming the mindset of most Tanzanians who have entrenched behaviour of evading, with pride, being taxed.

Large sums of money have been stolen from national coffers by responsible people entrusted with protecting national assets.

Funds intended for national development have been siphoned and stored in buckets and under pillows in homes of those entrusted with national development. Some of the funds have been stashed in off- shore banks.

This means that the President has embarked on flushing the rot in the minds of some of our people in order to put them in the correct mindset for development first and writing the constitution second.

The President has at present prioritised development issues different from what Damas would have done. But Damas is not alone in this thought.

It is likely that a section of Tanzanians would have prioritised the making of a new constitution over and above anything else.

They have the right to think that way. But prioritising national issues is at present in the hands of President Magufuli and his cabinet.

I believe the President has advisors and think tanks which discuss and make decisions for national development including writing a constitution.

Damas states that there was minimal applause after the President’s speech on November 4 2016 when he stated that he was not in a hurry to embark on drafting a new constitution.

This is to say that the President did not say that he will not embark on constitutional reforms.

What he said is that he will address other issues before he comes to address constitutional matters. Furthermore, Damas was disappointed that stakeholders of the process of making a new constitution including political parties who ‘were supposed to have received the news with shock and disbelief’ reacted minimally to the President’s speech (shock and disbelief may cause heart failure!).

That is to say there was little clapping. Clapping is in many situations an emotional response to which the clappers may develop a second thought soon after clapping. Does Damas know why (or guess why) the stakeholders in the process of writing the constitution, failed to react to the President’s speech?

What is disappointing about Dama’s write up is the words he used to describe President Magufuli’s speech.

He is disappointed that the opposition parties failed in ‘condemning the President’s utterances’. Civilized people neither condemn nor refer to their President’s speech as utterances.

There is accepted etiquette to use when we refer to a speech by a President worldwide. Respect for public positions particularly the Presidency is practiced all over the world. Abuse or insult of presidential position is tantamount to national insubordination.

For many years some unscrupulous people in Tanzania devised systems of conning fellow Tanzanians and the government but got away scot-free with what they had looted. President Magufuli is trying hard to seal tunnels created by some of our citizens that made it possible for them to steal with impunity public funds and also laundered money through shoddy deals.

Those who looted government funds and are already caught are unhappy about the President.

Those who stole public funds but are not yet caught sleep with their bellies rolling.

The President hires and fires employees he has appointed as he sees it fit for the nation. No questions are asked why he has done so because it is his prerogative.

If he hires an executive for a company and soon discovers that he has hired a scandalous person he will fire him/her and he is not necessarily required to explain why. The reasons may be political, period.

Finally let me revisit democracy and writing a new constitution issue as orchestrated by Damas in his article.

The tenets required for the introduction of democracy in a state are tenacious.

The Greeks experienced that fact many years back. Democracy is introduced and natured ‘dose-wise’ or stage by stage.

Democracy in the first world that we are anxious to copy or imitate did not arise over night. It was introduced step by step and involved at times the elimination of bad and archaic habits through legislation and sometimes with brutal force. Apparently too much democracy in a country with high illiteracy rate and plagued with the burden of superstition and sorcery may create more harm than good to the recipients who are expected to benefit from it. We need to eradicate these counterproductive behaviours and practices before we seriously introduce tangible constitutional changes that our society will understand, trust and respect.

We need to cleanse the soul and mind first before we embark on the long journey of writing a constitution. Hungry and starved people cannot write properly a constitution no will they be able to read it and understand it well when it has been written!

President Magufuli’s reform process is not cosmetic in the eyes of honest Tanzanians. Nay, his process is real. It is intended to mould Tanzanians to move away from the false pretences of being satisfied in being exuberantly rich in a country rated the poorest in the world. It is intended to educate Tanzanians to appreciate that it a virtue to pay tax.

It is intended to remind Tanzanians that laziness has been condemned by the scriptures which they read regularly which state that you should not eat what you have not sown.

Stated slightly differently it means you should not steal, connive. You should be honest to your country.

When the President has made progress in perfecting our soul and mind he will have succeeded in converting our false mindset.

That is the time we can write in an honest way a constitution. Otherwise he will be putting the cart before the horse.

Balanced journalism for national development calls for analytical and critical thinking which I have always admired by reading articles by columnists of the Citizen.

A word when used appropriately has power to influence.

It can move mountains! I have always nourished my mind by reading articles by columnists of The Citizen. They are great writers. We will write a good constitution when we are ready to write one. Cheers...

Prof Mramba Nyindo, a basic science teacher with peripheral legal-political interests.