What next after Magufuli’s death?

Friday March 19 2021
Magu pic

President John Magufuli speaking during the launch of a public forest in Chato.

By Alawi Masare

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is readying for leadership transition after President John Magufuli passed away on Wednesday following ‘heart complications’ from which he had suffered for about a decade.

Flags started flying at half-mast as the country begins a 14-day mourning period after Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan announced Magufuli’s death shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

Under Tanzania’s Constitution, Ms Hassan becomes the country’s first female president, as she finishes Magufuli’s second five-year term, ruling until 2025.

However, nothing was updated yesterday on either the timetable for burial of Magufuli and other mourning activities or when Ms Suluhu will be inaugurated as the new head of state.

Article 37(5) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania states: “Where the office of President becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, loss of electoral qualifications or inability to perform his functions due to physical infirmity or failure to discharge the duties and functions of the office of President, then the Vice President shall be sworn in and become the President for the unexpired period of the term of five years and in accordance with the conditions set out in Article 40...

“…after consultation with the political party to which he belongs, the President shall propose the name of the person who shall be Vice President and such appointment shall be confirmed by the National Assembly by votes of not less than 50 percent of all the Members of Parliament,” the mother law states.

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The constitution does not mention the time frame on when all these events should be done but lawyers differ on what could be the best option for now.

“The Constitution does not give the timeframe for the swearing-in of a new president under the current circumstances but I think it should be immediately to fill the leadership vacuum left after the death of the president,” said the president of Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Dr Rugemeleza Nshala.

After the General Election, the president-elect is supposed to be sworn-in in seven days.

Dr Nshala believes even under the current circumstances the acting time will not exceed a week.

The current transition circumstances are new as Tanzania has never experienced the sitting president to die in its history.

“I think swearing-in of the new president may be done when things have settled after burials. It’s not proper under normal logic that you hold swearing-in ceremonies with a dead body inside,” said advocate Jebra Kambole.

Forming new government?

The constitution also has conditions for the sworn-in vice president into president under the above circumstances.

“Where the Vice President holds the office of President in accordance with the provisions of Article 37(5) for less than three years, he shall be eligible to contest for the office of President for two terms, but where he occupies the office of President for three years or more, he shall be eligible to contest for the office of President for one term only,” states the constitution.

Ms Suluhu who will rule until 2025 will therefore have a chance to run for president for only one term.

After the anticipated swearing in, Ms Samia will also have “an option to form her government. She has the option to appoint new ministers or continue with the incumbents as the constitution does not make it mandatory,” said Dr Nshala.

“In most cases, the top leaders like to form their own team,” he added.

According to section 57(2)(f) of the constitution, the office of a minister or a deputy Minister shall become vacant upon the occurrence of several circumstances.

One of them, the position ends immediately before the President-elect assumes office.

Preparations for transition?

In what was seen as the preparations for the transition, the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) called for a special meeting of the party’s central committee on Saturday.

Addressing a press briefing in Dodoma yesterday, CCM secretary for publicity and ideology Mr Humphrey Polepole did not reveal the agenda of the special meeting which will be held in Dar es Salaam.

But currently, the ruling party leaders were scratching their heads over who will be the next Vice President.

The meeting may therefore, among other issues, discuss and possibly propose the Vice President who is supposed to come from the mainland.

The constitution requires the vice president to come from the mainland Tanzania if the president is from Zanzibar, and vice versa.

On the other hand, Speaker of the National Assembly Job Ndugai directed members of the Parliament’s committees who were on tour to inspect development projects in various regions to return back to Dodoma as soon as possible.

He said the recalling of the MPs follows the death of the president but did not explain what they were going to do in Dodoma.

But the person who will be proposed for the position of the vice president will have to be approved by the National Assembly, with at least 50 percent of votes from all MPs.

World leaders mourn

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, current chairman of the East African Community Summit, said Africa had lost an “illustrious” leader and ordered a seven-day period of mourning in Kenya and for flags to fly at half-mast in the region.

The African Union, regional leaders, Britain and the United States also sent condolences.

“We hope that Tanzania can move forward on a democratic and prosperous path,” the US State Department said.

“We are saddened by the loss of my brother and friend, President Magufuli. His contribution to his country and to our region will not be forgotten. My deepest condolences to his family and the people of Tanzania. The people of Rwanda stand with Tanzania during this difficult time,” Rwanda President Paul Kagame posted on Twitter.

“My dear friend and brother President John Magufuli. You led Tanzania to become a middle income country ahead of your own target. You gave your all for Tanzania. May God comfort your dear wife and family and the people of Tanzania. I will forever cherish your memory,” twittered the president of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina.

Local opposition leaders mourned Magufuli.

“As we continue mourning, let us use this period as a nation to open new chapter by bringing tha national unity and respect to freedom, justice, rule of law, democracy and people development,” said Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe in a statement.

“This is an unprecedented moment for our United Republic of Tanzania, and one that will undoubtedly move us all in very personal ways,” said ACT Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe in a statement.

“My immediate thoughts are with Mama Janeth and the whole family of our deceased President. On behalf of ACT Wazalendo I extend our heartfelt condolences and support during this time. I further extend our condolences to incoming President Samia Suluhu Hassan for this most untimely loss, and to the deputy CCM for the loss of their national chairman,” he added.