On November 05, 2019, President John Magufuli clocked four years in office.
During the four years at the helm the president has made major reforms in political, economic and social arenas. He also brought into the presidency a rare style of leadership that has, to some extent, kept his assistants on their toes.
An analyst who spoke to the Political Platform while commending President Magufuli on the good job he has done so far on the socio-economic aspect said, however, that the government, under his watch, has taken decisions and actions that has reduced the democratic space.
Political Platform reviews some of the reforms that the fifth phase government have implemented under the leadership of President John Magufuli since 2015.
Ban of political rallies
In June 24, 2016 just about eight months after President Magufuli came to power political rallies were banned. Members of Parliament weren’t allowed to hold rallies outside their constituencies. The president, who is also the ruling party, CCM, national chairman, declared that since the election period was over people should concentrate on development activities. Political rallies and demonstrations were a waste of time and distraction.
The president’s pronouncement over the issue was greeted by an uproar from the opposition, civil society organizations and some members of the academia.
Those who were against the president’s directive argued that it was unconstitutional that provides the right for peaceful assembly and against the then Political Party Act, which gave registered political parties the right to hold rallies.
Enactment of new political parties Act
Despite the public uproar the Parliament went ahead to enact the new Political Parties Act, in January, which officially banned rallies except for elected representatives in their own constituencies.
This means a political party leader who is not elected as a representative of the people would not be able to hold public rallies.
Although the enactment of the new law drew resentment from the opposition and other pressure groups including civil society organizations, the President later signed the Bill into law.
Some of the other controversial provisions of the law, which met stiff opposition include the one that bars political parties from operating as pressure groups and also the one which gives the Registrar of political parties sweeping powers to “police and micro-manage” political parties’ internal affairs.
Section 6A (6) of the Act, for example, prohibits a political party from functioning as “a pressure or activist group.” The Act defines a pressure group or activist group as “a group of people that influences public opinion or government action in the interest of a particular cause.”
Section 5A of the Act requires anyone wishing to conduct civic education or any kind of capacity building training to a political party to inform the Political Party Registrar before doing so. The Registrar will have the last say whether to approve or block the training.
Professor Gaudens Mpangala from the Ruaha Catholic University (Rucu) told Political Platform that although the President scorecard in socio-economic reforms may be high he has, however, failed when it comes to the growth of democracy.
Prof Mpangala said the fifth phase government introduced various laws and regulations, which in accordance to him suppressed the growth of democracy.
“Now politicians aren’t allowed to hold public rallies except in their own constituencies, which is core to the democratic growth…in my opinion the amendments and introduction of new laws have suppressed democracy,” said Prof Mpangala.
The ACT-Wazalendo party leader Mr Zitto Kabwe labeled the enactment of the law as a setback to the fight for democracy in the country.
Government officials have, however, insisted that the Act does stifle democracy but has only put orderliness in the way political parties conduct their activities including holding public rallies.
President Magufuli also addressed claims that he is stifling democracy and free speech. The occasion was a meeting the President convened with religious leaders earlier this year. A cleric, Reverend Amani Lyimo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), asked the Head of State to allow people to speak freely as a way of promoting democracy.
“Honorable President, people fear to talk nowadays…your subordinates may not be telling you the reality on the ground but the truth is, people are not to free to speak their mind…I would ask you to let them talk…,’’ said Reverend Lyimo.
The Reverend was among the several contributors who stood up to express challenges faced by Tanzanians, as per the aim of the President’s meeting with the religious leaders.
While responding the President gave an example of a bishop going into a mosque to speak ill of Muslims.
“Like the way you (religious leaders) respect each other, we want political parties to do the same, even if they were 50 political parties,” he noted.
“Let me assure all religious leaders that nobody is prohibited to organize political gatherings provided that they follow the law,” he said.
President Magufuli gave the example of the US where those candidates who lose in elections have to wait for the next campaigns to hold public rallies.
“I have never seen Hillary Clinton holding political rallies since she was defeated in the last election. We only see President Donald Trump holding the rallies, because this is his time and that he will be assessed for what he has achieved upon expiry of his term in office,” President Magufuli noted.
Arrest of opposition figures
The four year tenure of President Magufuli will go down in history as the toughest time opposition politicians encountered since their re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1992.
Several key political figures including the leader of the main opposition party Chadema Mr Freeman Mbowe
Mbowe and six Members of Parliament face a criminal case number 112/2018 which has 13 counts.
Apart from Mbowe the other accused persons include Tarime Urban MP, Esther Matiko; Iringa Urban MP, Peter Msigwa; Chadema Deputy Secretary General – Zanzibar, Salum Mwalimu; Kibamba MP, John Mnyika; Kawe MP Halima Mdee, Tarime Rural MP, John Heche, Bunda MP, Ester Bulaya and Chadema’s Secretary General, Dr Vicent Mashinji. Other key political figures, who spent days behind bars include party leader of the Alliance for Change and Transparency, ACT-Wazalendo, Mr Zitto Kabwe.
Mr Mbowe and other prominent opposition figures were detained have also been detained on several occasions following orders from Regional and District Commissioners.
During the four years of President Magufuli in power many politicians, including ward councilors and Members of Parliament defected back to the ruling party. Most of the MPs, who defected to the ruling party, like Mwita Waitara (Chadema to CCM) and Maulid Mtulia (CUF to CCM) among others were re-elected through the ruling party ticket. The number of politicians who defected from the opposition to the ruling party stands at around 150.
The surprise defection, however, was that of the former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa who ran for the presidency through Chadema ticket in the 2015 General Election.
Mr Lowassa returned to the ruling party in March 2019 and was received by the party chairman President Magufuli. Mr Lowassa ditched the ruling party for Chadema in August 2015 after he was eliminated in the first round in the CCM primaries.