In defence of President John Magufuli: ‘Tanzania is a beacon of democracy’

In defence of President John Magufuli: ‘Tanzania is a beacon of democracy’
Visiting Tanzanian President John Magufuli delivers his speech during the official commissioning ceremony of the Nairobi Southern Bypass road in Nairobi, Kenya, 01 November 2016. Photo: EPA/DANIEL IRUNGU

The recent Daily Maverick article on human rights violations in Tanzania is nothing more than a ‘Broadway gossip story’ and an attempt to destroy the image of the East African country.

Many Tanzanian experts, like me, are deservingly quiet, watching how the country is progressing in terms of realising its cherished dream. But recent articles that are calculated at destroying  Tanzania’s image are disquieting. Thus this comeback.

One such latest example is Daily Maverick’s article entitled Human rights continue to worsen in Tanzania as Magufuli cracks down on critics.

The erroneous, incompetent, non-factual article was written by Tanzanian opposition MP Tundu Lissu, who is undergoing medical treatment in Belgium.

Lissu’s article has raised anomalous issues about Tanzania which only justifies one end: the editors of Daily Maverick and the writer are either sponsored to tarnish the name of Tanzania in the global arena or represent yet another perpetuation of what US linguist Noam Chomsky called “manufacturing of consent”.

It is surprising that the famed online newsletter Daily Maverick is publishing a poem-like feature analysis which lacks and misses the reality and facts about Tanzania.

This article shows how both Daily Maverick editors and the writer didn’t bother to find out the truth about Tanzania to balance their one-sided Broadway gossip. Let me join this discussion.

1.The once-peaceful Tanzania

In tarnishing and forcing their narrative to third world audiences, Chomsky reveals, Western media employs what is called framing. The term refers to a careful selection of certain words to communicate the author’s/editor’s personal bias.

The framing in the headline of the article starts with a misleading inference, namely “human rights continue to worsen in Tanzania…” This means Tanzania is not peaceful.

This is not true because both the newspaper’s editors and the writer, although a Tanzanian, are ignorant of what is happening and where this prosperous nation comes from. Additionally, they failed to consult and interpret data from other researchers coming from their own vicinity.

Contrary to the message being “manufactured” in the article casting Tanzania as a once-peaceful but currently violent one, the 2018 Global Peace Index Report (GPI), released recently by The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) in the United States, has ranked Tanzania the 51stmost-peaceful country among 163 independent countries ahead of several giants, thus UK (57), France (61), China (112), USA (121), to mention a few.

The report also ranks Tanzania the ninth in Africa and as the most-peaceful independent country in East Africa.

The GPI used 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources and measured the state of peace using three thematic domains: the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict; and the Degree of Militarisation.

The 2018 GPI also included the analysis of trends in Positive Peace namely: the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies that made Tanzania scoop more marks than many countries in the world.

2. Is Tanzania detaining journalists, bloggers, artists and other citizens?

This is another level of “manufacturing consent”. As far as I’m aware, currently there is/are neither a journalist(s)/citizen(s) in detention in Tanzania for his/her work, nor for any other common felony. This is in contrast to what is actually happening in the UK and in the US.

Moreover, Tanzania is not detaining and torturing its citizens, as claimed by the writer. The writer’s claim is based on the just-ended saga of Mdude Nyagali, the activist and member of the opposition party (Chadema) who was snatched from his office in May 2019. Reports indicate that Mdude was tortured and later abandoned by unknown people in the forest.

From day one, the police force in Tanzania distanced itself from Mdude’s saga. The police force contends that this was a crime that may happen also in other countries. According to the police force, the investigation is under way to identify the criminals and arrest them. Moreover, Mdude’s saga should not be generalised as happenings in the country. By doing so, we shall be committing the fallacy of generalisation.

That, notwithstanding, the author seems to bring into sequence the recent questioning of two visiting Committee to Protect Journalists activists who manipulated immigration procedures in Tanzania and got into the hands of law enforcers.

The two media-workers-cum-activists, Kenyan Muthoki Momo and South African Angela Quintal, falsified their intention of visiting Tanzania as “holiday visitors” only to be caught working in Tanzania, and is a case no one can relate with press freedom as the author suggests.

It’s a clear case of violation of the law. Rule of law principles suggest that the legal rules ought to be executed without any bias like one’s citizenship or profession.

3. Is Tanzania democratic?

The writer of the article writes as if Tanzania under Chama cha Mapinduzi (the ruling party, CCM) had never become democratic. This is a massively inconclusive assertion not worthy of a future veteran lawyer, activist, member of the parliament and politician like Lissu.

Since independence to date, Tanzania is actively expanding its democracy and unwavering commitment to and respect of human rights by, among others, instilling constitutionalism, creating institutions, allowing multi-party democracy and acceding and subscribing to international as well as regional human rights instruments.

It should be noted that since 1992, Tanzania remains among the few countries in Africa that embraces and continues to enjoy peaceful multi-party democracy. The fact that MP Lissu himself is a Member of Parliament in Tanzania from an opposition camp, speaks loudly to how far the country is democratic.

As a young nation mitigating between building a united nation and economically-stable society, like many other countries on earth, Tanzania may have some challenges to its democracy, but not to the extent suggested by Daily Maverick.

The reality is that Tanzania is a more democratic country than many countries in the world. The findings from a 38-nation US-based Pew Research published early this year put Tanzania as one of the most promising democratic countries in Africa, ahead of Kenya and Ghana.

The survey conducted among 41,953 respondents in 38 countries across the world using telephone and face-to-face interviews found that 88% of Tanzanians are satisfied with the way democracy is working in the country under the leadership of President Magufuli.

Trust in the national government is highest in Tanzania. About nine-in-ten people in Tanzania (89%) trust their government to do what is right for their country, including 48% who say they have ‘a lot’ of trust,” states the research.

It should be noted that since 1992, Tanzania remains to be among the few countries in Africa, Asia and Europe that embraces and continues to enjoy peaceful multi-party democracy and power transition from one person to another after five or 10 years.

Currently, there are more than 18 registered political parties in Tanzania with the opposition increasingly gaining more seats and votes in both parliamentary as well as presidential elections, albeit some isolated few incidents of violence, which happens everywhere.

Since assuming power in 2015, President John Magufuli has been a pioneer and engineer of press freedom and press accountability in Tanzania. Journalists and media stations/newsrooms enjoy freedom of expression.

Currently, in Tanzania, there are 226 registered newspapers, 163 radio stations and 35 televisions stations respectively. Are these not the cornerstones of democracy?

I understand there is increased scrutiny on media accountability, which is not a bad thing.

Considering the past massive ethical challenges in Tanzania where many political figures faced character assassinations and defamation from sponsored journalism, anyone familiar with media history in this country would understand why accountability is the word now.

4. The LGBT issue 

The writer was heard through different international media talks and interviews supporting the recognition of the LGBT in the country. Exhibiting a lack of cultural relativism, the author might be blaming Tanzanian on the issue of homosexuals. It should be made clear that same-sex relationships are a crime in Tanzania and in many countries.

This makes the behaviour to be regarded as a moral decay in Tanzania. No one has the right to force his/her own belief onto another.

That’s why, despite a personal loose statement of the Regional Commissioner, whose stance was denounced by the central government, there is no mass or public harassment of homosexuals in Tanzania, other than those caught in the pants committing the immoral act.

5. Harassment of opposition members in Tanzania

The writer goes on to allege that opposition politicians are harassed because of criticising President Magufuli. This is not true, as many opposition members, including the writer himself, are currently in the parliament in Dodoma criticising the works of the government.

Moreover, the writer who was hit 16 times in September 2017 by unknown gunmen, contends to tell the world that he was shot by government agents. According to reports from the police and which are available in public domains, the incident was very unfortunate and can happen in any country.

Such events are very rare in peaceful countries like Tanzania. However, it should be noted that on the same fateful day, a retired high-ranking army officer was also attacked by unknown gunmen and sustained injuries.

That is why on the same day, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, John Magufuli, issued a statement condemning the crime and ordered a thorough investigation. Moreover, the Vice President, former President and other senior government leaders visited Hon Lissu in hospital, some in Dodoma and others in Nairobi.

Investigators have since the incident stated that in such events, apart from the forensic investigation, key witnesses are crucially important for effective investigations, leading to successful prosecution.

The law enforcers have been imploring the cooperation of the MP and his driver, who escaped unhurt, to volunteer an account of eye witnessing the crime, but in vain. Investigators in Tanzania are still keen and waiting for the MP and his driver, the only two impeccable eye-witnesses, to change their startling reluctance and cooperate.

6. Who is President Magufuli?

To understand and appreciate what is happening in Tanzania, the author and everybody who wants to objectively analyse Magufuli is supposed to ask: who is President Magufuli and what is his quest and bequest?

I can introduce him as a democratically-elected Tanzanian president who is highly respected among his people and in regional politics for his no-nonsense type of leadership as well as performance in delivering his promises.

President Magufuli has already received many awards because of his strong leadership. These are his top achievements that the lawyer, activist, MP and analyst missed:

7. The War against Corruption

Since assuming power in 2015, President Magufuli has been sweeping away the country’s reputation for endemic corruption and poor public services. For example, he fired many senior executives and half of his cabinet ministers either for embezzlement or inaction. In Tanzania today, any public officials knows it: if you are corrupt, you are in trouble.

And it’s already paying off: Transparency International has ranked Tanzania the second country in East Africa after Rwanda in the war against corruption. The 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report released recently put Tanzania at an average score of 36 points behind Rwanda which has scored 56 points.

The 2017 AfroBarometer research network shows that over 70% of Tanzanians believe corruption had decreased “somewhat” or “a lot” in the previous year. This is in stark contrast to the results of a similar survey in 2014, when only 13% reported they believed corruption had decreased in the previous year.

8. Tanzania’s right to benefit from natural resources

Understandably, together with the impact of his great work on corruption sharks, this is another reason for targeted international media propaganda against Magufuli.

The protection of natural resources, mainly in the extractive industry, has been another area of achievements. He has confronted mining giants like Acacia, Barrick Gold, Geita Gold Mine and Tanzanite One to renegotiate their contracts to make Tanzania earn more. All have bowed to his pressure, albeit under protest.

Three laws have been enacted to enforce a sterner administration of the mining sector and results are positively yielding. For example, the revenue from the mining sector has risen to TZS300-billion during the financial year 2017/2018 from below TZS194-billion previously.

9. Cost cutting

The reduction of foreign trips by government officials and scaling down of public workshops has been another achievement.

For example, in the 2014/15 fiscal year the government spent TZS216-billion on foreign travel, while in the last three years under Magufuli only TZS25-billion has been used for the same.

The increase of the government revenues from an annual average of TZS950-billion to TZS1.3-trillion has been another achievement. This has been a milestone on reducing donor funds in financing development projects.

10. Major construction work 

 Magufuli continues to focus on infrastructure in the country. For example, recently, the President laid the foundation stone for the construction of a 19.2km eight-lane duo linking the country’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam and Coast region.

Another is the signing of the $3-billion landmark deal with an Egyptian company for the construction of the Rufiji Hydropower Plant that will be Africa’s fourth largest dam. The project will generate 2,115 megawatts, which is more than all electricity generated from all other sources in Tanzania.

Thirdly, he is embarking on Africa’s biggest Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project, fetching another $3.5m from the government Treasury. The SGR will use electric-powered trains that will be ready by December 2019 for the first journey from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro, and in two years the SGR will connect the east coast Indian Ocean cities with the current political capital, Dodoma.

Those are not the end of the list of Magufuli’s scorecard-in the past three years.  Magufuli has also revamped the national carrier by purchasing six new planes which are all operating within and outside the country. Among these are two Airbus 220-300 jets and a US-manufactured Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Two more are expected this year.

It was no surprise last December when he was declared a winner of the London-based African Leadership Magazine’s African Person of the Year: Political Leadership award.

Contrary to the consent being “manufactured” by western media and allies, this is the Magufuli – “The Bulldozer” – that I know. As a patriot, I appreciate his unwavering efforts to transform his people

I call upon my fellows in academic rooms, and politicians in Tanzania and Africa at large to research and communicate objective data to defend our own development path rather than letting pass the imaginary analysis like the one published in Daily Maverick.

Let us be part of telling of our own narrative. DM

Darius Mukiza, PhD, is a lecturer in mass communications at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

See a response to this letter by Phillip Van Niekerk here:


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