Tanzania: Battle Lines Drawn As Magufuli Nods to Ban

Dar es Salaam - The brewing rivalry between President John Magufuli and the Opposition took an unpleasant turn last week after he upheld a controversial ban on political activity in a speech at an event to launch a police surveillance system in Dar es Salaam.

President Magufuli said the time for politicking was over. He needed space to deliver on his campaign promises without distraction from his political opponents.

There has been a backlash since over the statements roundly condemned as unconstitutional. But political analysts say the differences between the two sides can be attributed to the lack of understanding on how to relate to one another.

University of Dar es Salaam don, Prof Kitila Mkumbo says while opposition politicians blame President Magufuli for his hard stance on them, they should also be blamed for their failure to know who they are dealing with.

Prof Mkumbo, who also serves as advisor to the ACT-Wazalendo, notes: "We have problems on both sides. Dr Magufuli's government does not seem to know how to deal with the opposition while the opposition is not aware on how they can deal with Dr Magufuli."

Prof Mkumbo says many opposition politicians were not aware of the changes which have taken place, and most of them still expect the regime to treat them the same way they were treated during President Jakaya Kikwete's tenure.

"There is a need to realign. We (opposition) need to sit down and draw our strategies afresh. Basically, the opposition was supposed to grow evolutionarily but given the current situation, it will grow revolutionarily, at a very quick pace," he says.

Though the Opposition has criticised the 'announcement' by President Magufuli that time for politicking is over, the Registrar of Political Parties, Judge Francis Mutungi, has sided with the Head of State.

He says the statement aims at barring the type of politics that can slow down the implementation of promises the President gave during last year's General Election campaigns.

Another seasoned politician, Mr Augustine Mrema, is also in the view that President Magufuli and his government should be given time to implement their promises.

But analysts and pundits have been wondering what type of politicks opposition politicians are supposed to practice now. Or, who has devised such kind of politics?

They are asking this in the basis of the Political Parties Act, especially section 11(1) (a) which gives political parties a right to conduct and hold rallies in any area of its choice without a need to be given a permit.

The head of Political Science and Good Governance at the Open University of Tanzania (OUT), Mr Emmanuel Mallya, says the source of the misunderstanding between the President and the opposition was the kind of politics which many politicians have been practicing in the country. He blamed gutter politics for what has happened.

"But I believe that political parties in the country are evolving slowly and we will reach a point where everyone will be aware of how he is supposed to conduct himself as a politician," he says. Dr Bashiru Ali of the Political Science Department at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) believes that the 'ban' by the President will not have a nationwide effects.

"I believe that this order will not affect the country because of the kind of politics which the opposition has been practicing," he says.

But he questioned the criticism by the opposition noting that he has not seen any basis for the way the opposition has reacted to President Magufuli directive. He sees what is happening as a continuation of fierce rivalry witnessed during the campaigns.

"But according to our laws everyone has a right to engage in politics. Our laws do not give this right to one group. Our problem is that we have failed to define how we conduct politics in the country," he says.

He stresses that there was a need for the country to agree on what kind of democracy should be followed. He says while the country is not short of serious issues which politicians would have taken up, opposition has always been banking on cheap politics.

"Most politicians are now driven by their urge to win election and control the state house. Basically, they don't give much thought about what Tanzania and Tanzanians want," he elaborates.

But on the other hand, President Magufuli's order has been compounded by the way the law enforcers have reacted. The Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander, Simon Sirro, has seized the opportunity to second his boss noting that it will be very difficult for them to deal with growing criminal activities if politicians were allowed to conduct rallies everywhere in the country.

But Prof Abdul Sherrif of the Zanzibar Constitution Council notes that what the police are saying is just an excuse.

Source: The Citizen