Dar es Salaam. President John Magufuli yesterday launched a scathing attack on the Judiciary over its performance.
The Head of State said he was not interfering with the independence of the Judiciary, adding that he was speaking out against laziness, bureaucracy and corruption, which denied ordinary Tanzanians their basic rights.
President Magufuli was speaking in Dar es Salaam at an official function to mark Law Day.
He said he would not remain silent and look on as corrupt people purged from his government used the courts as a backdoor to freedom.
“I have decided that this country will move ahead, and it will move ahead. The measures I’m taking are aimed at saving this country. I’m not a mad man or a dictator...there are bizarre things going on in the government which I cannot tolerate…I must take action.” Dr Magufuli said amid hushed silence.
The President had abandoned his prepared speech and spoke off the cuff, saying he wanted to speak out his mind and call a spade a spade.
He accused the Judiciary of not being supportive in the war against corruption, adding that many people facing serious corruption charges walked free because of poor investigations and mishandling of cases.
“I’m worried that even the people I’m firing because of corruption will easily secure freedom despite watertight evidence against them,” he told judges, magistrates, advocates and other guests, who included Kenya’s Chief Justice, Dr Willy Mutunga.
President Magufuli said corruption was impeding development, adding that the only way out was to deal with corrupt individuals firmly and in accordance with the law.
Dr Magufuli directed Chief Justice Mohammed Chande Othman to take stern action against underperforming judges and magistrates, saying it was time everybody performed competently and effectively.
He also directed Mr Justice Othman to forward to him the names of judges and magistrates with exemplary records so that they could be rewarded for their service.
The Head of State said he respected the Judiciary, but added that it was his duty to point out hurdles that were hampering the fight against corruption in the country.
He said Tanzania has remained poor with the vast majority of its people living in grinding poverty because of a few corrupt individuals.
The President, who was addressing the Judiciary for the first time since he was sworn in, also voiced his concern about delayed cases.
He said delays had turned the courts into an escape route for corrupt individuals who rush to court to block any action against them.
President Magufuli said he was not happy with the way the courts were handling over 400 tax evasion cases that were currently pending. “The cases involve evaded tax to the tune of Sh1 trillion...this is what the country has lost,” the President said.
He said cases were being deliberately delayed and that some people involved in serious corruption scandals were walking free.
“There is a case involving people who were caught red-handed with government trophies in 2010, but investigations are still going on. I wonder what they are trying to find out,” he said.
Dr Magufuli vowed not to relent in his crusade against corruption.
“I have volunteered to selflessly serve this country, and I will ensure that I use my time in this world to serve poor Tanzanians so that even if I die today, they can rest assured that I served them with all my heart.”
The President added that the government would increase funding for the Judiciary to enable it to operate smoothly, and promised that the Treasury would release Sh5 billion in the next five days.
He said he hoped that the funds would help the Judiciary to clear the backlog of corruption cases.
President Magufuli also said judiciary officials who wanted to undertake further studies should seek loans from the Higher Education Students’ Loans Board (HESLB), adding that such studies should not be paid for by the Judiciary as is currently the norm.
On the directive that hundreds of billions of shillings in public funds deposited in commercial banks be transferred to the Bank of Tanzania, the President said the move was aimed at preventing public officials from manipulating the money in collusion with banks.
“Right now commercial banks are holding up to Sh1.2 trillion in public funds, which must be accounted for,” he said.
In his remarks earlier, Mr Justice Othman said the Judiciary was grappling with many challenges.
“We have had to close primary courts in a number of areas because there is no money to run them,” he said.
Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) president Charles Rwechungura said the law that established the association was outdated and does not empower TLS to discipline its members whenever they go against their work ethics.
He added that delayed cases were giving the Judiciary a bad name.
“Ordinary Tanzanians have been complaining about delayed cases for a long time,” Mr Rwechungura said.