Dar es Salaam. The no-nonsense attitude that Paul Makonda exhibited when serving as Kinondoni district commissioner probably prompted President John Magufuli to promote him to the Dar es Salaam regional commissioner’s post.
The appointment of the youthful politician to the sensitive post, which sees him commanding the country’s major city with a population of approximately 4.5 million, has, however, sparked heated debate with some giving him the benefit of doubt.
One of the Africa’s most overcrowded cities, Dar es Salaam is not just the country’s commercial capital, it is also East Africa’s second economic hub and the most populous metropolis.
In addition, the city is a political hotbed -- the chaos that marred the mayoral polls recently is just the tip of an iceberg. Political intrigues, threats, plots and counterplots are the order of the day in Dar es Salaam.
While it has over the years been the centre of attraction, pulling the country’s youth from all corners, the city is not all moonlight and roses. Its residents still have to contend with a myriad challenges in all spheres of daily life, ranging from pitiable infrastructure to traffic jams, poor sanitation, high crime rate, and wretched learning environment.
No wonder Forbes Magazine has since 2009 been ranking Dar es Salaam among the world’s 25 filthiest cities, one of uphill tasks with which Mr Makonda has vowed to grapple.
Makonda’s wish list
Soon after he assumed office, Mr Makonda started to issue directives, in line with his plans, aimed at uplifting Dar es Salaam before he met several local authorities’ leaders with whom he spent over four hours explaining his strategies and expectations from them.
This is one of Mr Makonda’s characters which endeared him to other leaders, including Dr Magufuli. He is a daring and innovative leader, who does not want to sit on the fence or shy away from unveiling his plans.
This is a trait which is missing in many armchair leaders who heavily rely on regulations in place to deal with emerging issues.
The RC outlined his strategies for the city when addressing local authorities’ leaders, including improving sanitation, avoiding politics at workplaces, assisting petty traders and hawkers, conducting house-to-house census, improving security and restoring dignity of local government workers, among others.
One thing, which Mr Makonda highlighted during the meeting, was awarding any committed leader who would diligently serve the people, as he promised to provide them with working gear, including means of transport.
“It’s a shame for a major city like Dar es Salaam to grow haphazardly with a pub at every corner,” he lamented.
Experts say many of the plans Mr Makonda has outlined can be easily executed if there is a well understood and coordinated City Master Plan.
Head of Political Science and Good Government Unit at Open University of Tanzania (OUT) Emmanuel Mallya says Mr Makonda’s plans are good and deserve support.
Mr Mallya says a lot need to be done for Mr Makonda’s plans to be implemented, noting, however, that investing in the change of mindsets among Dar es Salaam residents is required for effectively improving sanitation.
“We see efforts to collect garbage in his plans, which comprise dumping sites,” he says, as he highlights the need for waste management skills to be imparted on the city residents for them to practice them right from their bedrooms.
Mr Mallya hails the RC’s plans for designating areas for various activities, emphasizing the need for a master plan indicating specific areas for each activity for the city to appear neat.
“There should be specific areas for garages and all motorists should be aware of them, there should also be specific areas reserved for construction materials and entertainment joints,” he elaborates.
He blames Mr Makonda’s predecessors for exacerbating the petty traders’ challenge by sitting on the fence, saying they were supposed to strictly implement plans in a bid to address the street hawkers’ menace.
“Many look at the street businessmen as a simple issue. In fact, it is a complicated and serious one, as it requires one to go to its roots,” he says, adding that setting aside areas for the machingas alone is not enough, for experience shows big businessmen ended up benefitting from the markets wherever they were put up.
Mr George Simbachawene, the minister responsible for Regional Administration and Local Governments, concurs with him, says it is difficult to roll out the Dar es Salaam Master Plan owing to abuse.
He says leaders have no tangible clue of implementing the city’s seven-year-old Master Plan and one office after another was reluctant to dwell on it.
“We must be truthful. This plan is hard to implement, given the current state of Dar es Salaam. It does not need someone from Europe direct us on the implementation of a plan which clearly indicates what should be where,” the minister tells a land experts meeting.
RC Makonda may have genuine plans to develop Dar es Salaam, but he is likely to face political pressure. And now that Dar es Salaam councillors have elected a city mayor from Chadema, he should brace for a political showdown, as each side seeks to flex its muscle.
Opposition parties, namely Chadema and CUF, won in six out of eight constituencies in Dar es Salaam in the last year’s General Election. And empirical evidence shows many opposition legislators and councillors do not trust Mr Makonda.
Given his stand during the Constituent Assembly (CA) sessions, they always view him as a politician rather than a public servant. A University of Dar es Salaam lecturer, Mr Richard Mbunda, says the current situation shows the Opposition boasts massive support in Dar es Salaam.
This will be a challenge to Mr Makonda, who doubles as the CCM Political Committee member for Dar es Salaam and Regional Security Committee chairman with powers to command state apparatus at his disposal.
Mr Mbunda says botched relations between Mr Makonda and the politicians from the Opposition camp will have a negative impact on the young leader’s plans.
“This situation will create frictions and fissures which will thwart the implementation of good plans both Mr Makonda and the Opposition have in mind,” he says.
The don says Mr Makonda and the city mayor from the Opposition should exercise high level of restraint and wisdom if each of them wants to succeed and excel in his area.