Canada is moving towards authoritarianism
Authoritarianism à la Magufuli
IS TANZANIA TOWARDS A DICTATURE UNDER PRESIDENT MAGUFULI? Socio-economic measures and the fight against corruption are confronted in Tanzania with an increasing narrowing of political space and growing repression. A look back at two years of the presidency of John Pombe Magufuli moves between these two poles. Whereby the pendulum swings more on the authoritarian side.
In the last few months the reports have increased both in frequency and in intensity. While there has been news of allegations, arbitrary arrests, interrogations of politicians and the ban on party meetings for a long time, the assassination attempt on Tundu Lissu in September attracted (inter) national attention. Lissu is a member of the Chadema, the largest opposition party, and President of the Tanganyika Law Society. Most recently, on October 31, 2017, the popular party leader and only member of parliament of the small left-wing Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT Wazalendo), Zitto Kabwe, was arrested for one day. The basis was a passage from the Statistics Act 2015, according to which an institution or person is liable to prosecution if they publish official statistics while distorting the facts. Kabwe had only said at party events and using the media that Tanzania's economic growth in the second quarter was 5.7 percent instead of the officially stated 7.8 percent.
Reflection of increasing repression
The arrest of Kabwe is a vivid example of the increasing repression. The politician has been threatened several times in recent years. Despite his recent release, he has repeatedly reported to the police. A fate that befell the current ACT chairman Jeremiah Maganja and the general secretary Dorothy Semu as well as the entire Central Committee. On November 8th, the party headquarters in Dar es Salaam was searched by police. Computers and materials as well as press releases were confiscated.
The ACT is a relatively young party that was founded only three years ago. With her political manifesto, the Tabora Declaration, she makes direct reference to the socio-political goals of the Arusha Declaration of 1967. This is an important document of a policy of African socialism under the first President Julius Nyerere. In particular, Kabwe has been involved in the fight against corruption and for transparency in politics for years. During his time as a Chadema MP and chairman of the parliamentary audit committee, he exposed, among other things, corruption within the government in connection with a trust fund for the state-owned electricity company Tanesco. After his expulsion from the Chadema in 2015 - he had also accused party members of corruption - he became chairman of ACT, which he co-founded.
The arrests herald a new era of political conflict. This can be seen in the fact that President Magufuli wanted to weaken the ACT in the middle of this year, primarily through the appointment of party cadres. The then acting ACT chairwoman Anna Mghwira was appointed commissioner of the Kilimanjaro region and the board member and founding member Prof. K. Mkumbo was appointed state secretary in the Ministry of Water. Such positions were previously reserved for members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
Magufuli's achievements and self-image
The government's view of the first two years of Magufuli's presidency contrasts with the increasing repression. In an official government statement on November 5, 2017, just days after Kabwe's arrest, the ten largest achievements since the beginning of the presidency were published. These include the increased discipline of the public servants, control of government spending, protection of natural resources and new mining laws, the reduced number of foreign trips by government members, improvements in social services such as free education or infrastructure projects as well as the first steps towards the Standard Gauge Railway, the planned railway line from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro. Magufuli also gained reputation because he refused to sign the criticized Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union.
The dispute with the mining company Acacia in particular shows a very positive political stance. Samples from confiscated containers from the Canadian company Acacia Gold Ltd in the port of Dar es Salaam had shown that the true content of precious metals was under-declared and taxes were evaded. Thereupon the government fired responsible persons and the parliament decided on legal changes. In a final report, the commission appointed criticized, among other things, the inadequate duties and taxes. This takes up many arguments from critics of previous economic policies. According to the new laws, contracts with mining companies can be (re) negotiated, which has already happened in the Acacia case with the Canadian parent company Barrick-Gold.
Magufuli knows how to present himself as a "tough innovator" and a "strong man". During the 2015 election campaign, he focused on himself as a person and not on the ruling CCM party. Certainly because he knew the party's bad reputation would reduce his chances. "Hapa kazi tu" - "Now to work" was his election slogan. He has acted in a similar way since taking over the presidency. He fired "ghost workers" and appeared unannounced in public institutions.
Magufuli did not hesitate long. Finally a president took up issues of the common people and took election promises seriously. That earned him sympathy, even among the voters who had not voted for him. In return, the first authoritarian signs were ignored and played down as "collateral damage." It was also tolerated that individual election promises such as the announced start of the constitutional process had not yet been made.
When it comes to dismissals, Magufuli does not pay attention to CCM party membership, he also takes on internal critics. For example, the former CCM Minister for Information and Media, Nape Nnauye, after he criticized the breaking into a radio station by a regional government official accompanied by armed security forces in order to force a message to be broadcast. Magufuli thus creates - also within the party - a climate of fear that nips any form of criticism in the bud. His political style still seems to be arriving. Even if the approval ratings drop, they are still over 70 percent and well above those for the work of the CCM and parliament.
On the way to dictatorship 2.0?
It is his political activities and his "successes" that make the Magufuli phenomenon difficult to grasp. The contradictions do not allow for pigeonhole thinking Teodoro Obiang in Equatorial Guinea, characterized by clientelism, elite support and self-enrichment. Despite all the repression, opposition politicians like Kabwe are currently speaking of "further steps towards a dictatorial tendency".
It could therefore be exaggerated that Tanzania is heading for a dictatorship 2.0. Its clarity can be seen on the one hand in the propagation and partial implementation of a "developmental state" or in its fight against corruption, on the other hand in the massive narrowing of the democratic scope of action that affects political actors and the media. That is to be mentioned, which is heavily criticized and vaguely formulated Cyber Crime Law, which declares the publication of false data or information in the form of images, text or symbols in computer systems as a criminal offense. 9,440 cases of cybercrime are currently being prosecuted by the police.
Live broadcasts of parliamentary debates are also prohibited. At the time, Kabwe and six Chadema opposition MPs criticized the exclusion from television teams. They called for live broadcasts from parliament. This was seen as a "disruption to the rules of procedure" within Parliament and in turn led to the seven MEPs being excluded from parliamentary debates every six months in 2016.
In the same year a new media law was passed. Under this, among other things, individual articles can be banned. The law has already been applied against the weekly newspaper "Mawio". In addition, meetings of political parties have been banned and a new party law that has been announced suggests anything but good. Magufuli also relies on "Basta" decisions in his economic policy rather than an orientation towards laws. Despite the lack of compatibility studies and protests so far, the controversial Stiegler's Gorge dam in the Selous Game Reserve, the largest controlled wildlife sanctuary in Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is to be promoted. This is - as Magufuli emphasized - built as securely as "the sun shines and rain falls".
Due to the narrowing of the political arena, the opposition has few opportunities to act. It is weak in terms of personnel and can hardly influence national discourses. Often the only thing left is denouncing corruption and lack of transparency. Here Magufuli cleverly takes the wind out of the sails through his actions against the opposition. Socio-economic visions remain unclear in order to establish a counterweight to President Magufuli. There are certainly starting points: among other things, in the clarification of which real social improvements Magufuli wants to implement with the money that has now been saved.
Andreas Bohne and Katrin Voss
Andreas Bohne is Project Manager East Africa at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and Katrin Voss works in the International Politics department at DIE LINKE.
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