Dar es Salaam. President John Magufuli yesterday asked MPs to support his development agenda in a passionate plea for support of his administration which is now into the second year of governing the country.
President Magufuli once again enumerated the steps he was taking to deliver on his campaign promises and warned MPs, especially those from the ruling party, CCM, against pitfalls that could derail their agenda for Tanzania.
Dr Magufuli said although some people have been complaining about his administration, he was sure that he is steering the country into the right direction.
“We should put Tanzania first and politics later. Tanzanians need development.. there is no Tanzanian who eats politics. I am thus appealing before my fellow politicians from CCM, Chadema, CUF and other parties to focus on our development agendas,” said the President, appearing to answer to critics who have questioned the manner in which the government was running the economic and political affairs of the country.
The Head of State was speaking during the laying of the foundation stone for the first phase of the Standard Gauge Railway project which will cost about Sh2.7 trillion ($1.2 billion). The 300-kilometre modern railway line will run from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro and will be the first high speed train in the region to use electricity (see separate story on this page).
It was during the function that Dr Magufuli reached out to MPs in what would be viewed as a direct response to growing criticism of the government and his style of leadership by a cross section of MPs currently in session to debate the government budget for the financial year 2017/18.
The government has lately come under pressure over the unsatisfactory execution of the 2016/17 budget, a faltering economy and insecurity linked to a new trend in which unknown people are behind a kidnap and torture of individuals seen as critical of the establishment.
President Magufuli’s style of leadership has also put him in focus, especially among members of the business community who say a credit squeeze and policy uncertainty have crippled businesses and likely to discourage new local and foreign investments.
But it is the apparent agitation from the Parliament that has raffled the government, with some MPs, including those from the ruling party, rallying around calls to jointly take the government head on the matter of budget execution and the insecurity linked to the kidnap gang.
President Magufuli indirectly responded to these issues during his address.
He said his government was keen to turn around the economic fortunes of the majority of Tanzanians and reiterated that those who were critical of his administration were the corrupt and those previously benefiting from wheeler dealing.
“I will continue to deliver my mandate as that is what you elected me to do. Is it true that all I am doing is bad and not beneficial?” asked Dr Magufuli.
“Let me see those in agreement that I continue. Can I continue? Can I continue with the work?” the President asked the crowd, which responded in the affirmative.
He dismissed those holding the view that he was a “bad driver” and assured the public that he was steady and focused. “…I believe I am a good driver so I shouldn’t listen to the noises because I believe that I am steering the country in the right direction; I believe we would reach there and attain our goal. One day you will remember the fifth phase government,” he said.
President Magufuli was referring to a recent song by a local music group Wagosi wa Kaya, whose lyrics in a narrative of the past governments questioned if the “current driver has a licence” and if “he will deliver passengers safely.”
The song is among several others by musicians who have used the genre to criticise the government. The brief arrest of Ney wa Mitego and last week’s kidnap of Roma Mkatoliki has been linked to their music. Dr Magufuli ordered the release of Ney wa Mitego over a song that had been seen as attacking the government and asked him to improve the song by including other issues such as corruption. President Magufuli has in the past criticised those who spent hours on social media attacking him and the government instead of engaging in useful work.
Yesterday, Dr Magufuli urged CCM legislators to implement the party’s 2015 election manifesto from which they committed to help the people achieve economic development.
The President reiterated his call for politicians from opposition parties to leave him alone to deliver rather than politic continuously. I will concentrate on my work and see you in 2020 (elections),” he said.
MPs have put the government on the sword in the ongoing budget session. MPs from the ruling party as well as those from the opposition have threatened to block the budgets of some ministries.
Discussing Prime Minister’s 2017/18 budget MPs from both the opposition and the ruling party, urged the government to take measures against the ever increasing incidents of abduction.
Some of MPs called for the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Mwigulu Nchemba, to resign and linked Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services (TISS) to the incidents including the disappearance of Chadema cadre Ben Saanane.
The MPs have also accused President Magufuli’s government of “killing the economy” by sidelining the private sector, which have caused some companies to close shop and others lay off workers.
The Parliament has also summoned some of officials from the executive officials for allegedly contempt of parliamentary immunities, powers and privileges.
Some of the MPs also criticised the government for failure to implement the 2016/17 after the Minister for Finance and Planning, Dr Philip Mpango, revealed when presenting the 2017/18 budget framework at the end of last month that only 37 per cent of development budget was disbursed.
This led to concerns on whether the MPs will endorse the 2017/18 budget, which was increased from Sh29.5 trillion to Sh31.69 trillion, as most of them want the government to set a realistic budget ceiling.
However, President Magufuli expressed his optimism that the House will endorse the budget so as to enable his administration to implement development projects.
“When you see that I have banned exportation of mineral sands I have done that for you (Tanzanians)…I urge MPs to endorse the 2017/18 budget proposals so as to enable my administration to fulfil our promise of transforming the country’s economy,” said the President.
The chairperson of the parliamentary Budget Committee, Ms Hawa Ghasia, assured the President the Parliament will endorse the budget proposals as she revealed that her committee has already endorsed it.
“I can assure you that the infrastructure budget proposals will be endorsed because my committee has already endorsed it,” she told the President.
For his part, the chairman of the parliamentary Infrastructure Development Committee, Dr Norman Sigalla, echoed President Magufuli’s calls for support.
“I can assure you that the President is taking us to the right direction…many have been said but what I can assure you that the President is doing the right thing after all he is not an angel he is only a human being, who has his shortcomings,” said Dr Sigalla.