Mbeya. President John Magufuli has pitched tent in Mbeya Region, campaigning yesterday in Mbeya Urban where Dr Tulia Ackson of the ruling party is facing Chadema’s Joseph Mbilinyi, alias ‘Sugu,’ in a battle for the constituency come the October 28 polls. Dr Magufuli, who is seeking a second term as president, rooted for Dr Ackson, revealing how he had settled on the former deputy speaker as his ‘pointsman’ to lead his administration’s development agenda for Mbeya City.
The battle for Mbeya is likely to be a tough one for the candidates as they have each laid out elaborate campaigns and strategies to win the hearts minds of voters who in the 2015 elections overwhelmingly voted for Chadema and Sugu.
The opposition party wrested control of Mbeya Municipality from CCM in a contest which saw to Mr Mbilinyi, a former rap artiste-turned-politician, garnered the highest number of votes cast for a single MP in the last elections. He got 108,566 votes against the CCM challenger who got 57,690 votes.
Dr Ackson has thrown her hat into the ring this year as she hopes to ride against the tide to unseat Mr Mbilinyi who is also looking to land a third term as MP on the Chadema ticket. The candidates continue to gauge each other in fever-pitch campaigns drawing multitudes to hear their promises.
Yesterday, it was President Magufuli’s time to market Dr Ackson, telling a mammoth rally at the old airport grounds that the former deputy speaker did not disappoint him. He said he had sent her to campaign in Mbeya so that “the people can commend you for the good work.”
Dr Magufuli said he nominated Dr Ackson as MP because he wanted her to carry out duties that he said Mr Mbilinyi was supposed to be doing. “I will today tell you what I did, my friends. So that Mbeya does not disappear from the map, I looked for one educated woman called Dr Tulia,” he said amid cheering from the crowd.
“I nominated her as MP so that there was someone to speak on behalf of Mbeya as the need arose. She was the first MP I nominated and, due to her as a bright star, she was also elected deputy speaker. Hon Tulia has done a good job and carried out all that was to be done by the Mbeya MP.”
President Magufuli added; “I would like during this public gathering to thank you because you bothered me all the time about development in Mbeya. And because I will not nominate you this time around, I have brought you before your parents, your sisters, your brothers and your elders to crucify you for your good work.”
The CCM national chairman said the party lost in Mbeya in 2015 due to infighting among its members and appealed for them to unite and ensure a victory for Dr Ackson. He reiterated that despite losing to Chadema, the government did not stop delivering development to Mbeya.
In his campaign promise, Dr Magufuli vowed to change Mbeya into a hub for tourism and other economic activities.
Dr Magufuli said the city had potential for tourism and trade in the Southern Zone but they were not fully exploited.
“I want to seriously change Mbeya into a better city in this country. It should not be trailing,” said Dr Magufuli at the meeting entertained by top artistes including Diamond Platnumz, Ali Kiba and Wasafi Classic Band’s Rayvanny.
“I want to make Mbeya an economic hub in the Southern Zone in the next five years,” he added.
Some of the promises to change Mbeya include completion of a Sh9.2 billion zonal referral hospital which he said will provide specialised services close to people of Mbeya.
According to him, the hospital will attract medical tourism to Mbeya and power the country’s economy.
“I want to see people from neighbouring countries come to this hospital to get better services,” he said.
Currently, Tanzanian tourism is concentrated in the northern zone including Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Serengeti and the beaches of Zanzibar.
However, Dr Magufuli said he wants to make the southern circuit more active by connecting the natural attractions with critical infrastructure and Mbeya becoming the hub.
He said if CCM wins, he will complete the Mbeya-Songwe international airport which he said will open up the southern circuit tourism.
He said the airport will also help transporting agricultural produces such as avocado from Mbeya to the international market through the cargo plane Dr Magufuli promised to buy among the five aircraft he promised in the next five years.
Dr Magufuli also promised a 40km bypass road from Uyole to Songwe in attempt to decongest the city traffic.
In improving water supply and sanitation, Dr Magufuli promised to implement two projects worth Sh41 billion in the region in the next five years.
He also said will divide the city to two separate districts if the city council will have majority members from the ruling party.
The old airport grounds were crowded with people who caused dusts as artistes performed on the stage.
As a sign of appreciation, Dr Magufuli gave his hat to Rayvanny who originates from Mbeya region as he performed on the stage.
Rayvanny also gave a bunch of bananas to the head of state as his appreciation.