Reflections on ‘the darkest hour’ of our nation

Wednesday August 04 2021
Darkest pic

Emotional Chato residents wait for the convoy carrying the body of the late John Magufuli. PHOTO | FILE


Tanzania in 2021 joined the unique list of African countries to experience the passing on of a head of state.

So much can be made of it but one thing for sure is that the events leading up to the announcement of the death of President John Magufuli exhibited only too well the long journey ahead in terms of statecraft.

I mean how does it happen that it takes an opposition figure to reveal to the public the president’s bad condition. Haven’t we always been told that the presidency is an institution? Evidently so it is far from it.

I concede that given the omnipotent character of Magufuli, any briefing on his illness would pose a challenge.

But even so, how is it permitted to reach ridiculous levels where the rest of the world is leading on that story and the regime is acting as if totally in the dark?

Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa went to the extent of even accusing nonplussed Tanzanians of being ‘unpatriotic’ and that Magufuli was working normally. Today Majaliwa is nonchalant.


One can only just imagine if we were living in the analogue era of Julius Nyerere. Such an event would be announced on radio like a thunderbolt and people in all corners of the country simply left to their own devices to digest what had occurred.

It’s worth mentioning as well that in our type of nations, the role of prayer is taken seriously. But by treating Magufuli’s health as a top secret, there was no place for religion.

Yet the late personally was ever portraying himself as a strong believer in the Almighty.

So it really was a low moment in our history when the then VP Samia announced at that late hour that Magufuli had departed from us.

And as if not enough of the comedy of errors, after Samia declared 14 days of national mourning, her party CCM came out with 21 days! Did CCM surely care more than the loyal lady?

Looking now briefly at the historic transition of power, much as it looked like passing off without incident, my understanding is that there was an attempt of sorts to forestall Mama Samia’s ascendancy - except that the bigwigs found themselves in an impossible situation.

This is the trouble when you have spineless politicians who have never dared to challenge anything constitutionally insidious.

It isn’t going to work at the 59th minute of the 11th hour.

I’m actually of the firm view that much as the deputy is elected on a joint presidential ticket, it is absolutely wrong that he or she automatically inherits the mantle at any stage upon the exit of a president.

We needed to have a presidential by-election and this can only for the most part serve to strengthen the person’s hand.

Supposing today then any misfortune were to come the way of our dear president, immediately the nominated VP Mpango would assume the highest office.

I‘ll posit that one of the things we must as a country waste no time in examining aside from the thoroughly inept handling of Magufuli’s illness and subsequent resting, is the grave matter of presidential succession.

To borrow an aphorism from the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Andrew Bomani is a political commentator and acting publicity secretary of UDP: [email protected]