Curveballs will rain on her but Mama Samia must keep going

There is a certain inelegance in some of the things that President Samia Suluhu Hassan is made to do in her hurry to undo the Magufuli legacy and, on a number of times, she appears to falter. Still, with the task she has set herself, who would not stumble from time to time?

At the very dawn of the new year, she resumed where she had left off at the close of the last, by getting together again with Freeman Mbowe of the main opposition party Chadema, and immediately after that presided over a larger meeting with all the political parties, heralding her decision to “allow” political activities to resume.

That was a positive move she had been working toward for some time since last year, and on this she has shown surprising resolve, seeing as she has been working at cross purposes with her ruling party bigwigs and state bureaucrats.

She is, among other things, chair of CCM, the behemoth that has ruled over Tanzania since Independence and has morphed from a liberation organisation into a rent-seeking appendage of the state, kept on its feet only by massive corruption.

Looking at CCM and how it operates, I dare think that, if one were to succeed, somehow, in stamping out the sordid practices it has engendered, the entire structure of the party and the state would come tumbling down.

In this situation, it should be easy to understand why the system is essentially rigged against what Samia is labouring to bring about — a relatively sane governance system in which political organisations and practitioners are suffered to do just what the country’s constitution says they are allowed to do, that is politics.


It is amazing that so much effort, and money, should be expended on this ludicrous effort, which to me is really a no-brainer. But the reason this is taking so long seems to be that within CCM there are people who’d rather die than accept a system in which they could lose an election, which is most likely if Samia has her way.

When she took over after John Pombe Magufuli died in 2021, Samia was thrown what she could have turned into a poisoned chalice, at worst, or a wicked curveball, at best. In the former case, she would have had to swallow and die, while in the latter she could try a deft hand, control the curve and keep playing. She chose the latter, and played hard, and smart. For which, bravo!

She played hard with the recalcitrant Magufulists within her party and parliament, including a speaker who tried a bras de fer over her borrowing programme. She snapped and the speaker wilted, which showed she could play very hard.

She played smart with the release of Mbowe — although she had been the one in power when he was arrested on spurious charges alleging terrorism —and immediately sat down with him to chart out what needed to be done to reverse Magufuli’s erasure of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania.

That is indeed what the late president had done, and it is a grave error to try to paper over the crime. In effect, Magufuli, a very transparent, if deeply flawed politician, had made it clear that on his watch there would be no opposition, and indeed showed us just what he meant: assassinations, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and trumped-up charges, suppression of free media and emasculation of civil society… you name it

The upshot of all that was the 2020 “election,” which was neither a farce nor a charade but a masquerade, in which even members of his own party, CCM, cried foul against Magufuli’s machinations. Taking personal control of the security apparatus, he demolished their structures and erected his own informal channels of control.

The curveball wrought over the Magufuli period is what Samia is called upon to grapple with. She needs a firm grip, dexterity and the agility to waltz as she juggles multiple balls in the air, all the time wary of the serpents snapping at her heels. As she opens up the political spaces, she has liberate the media, which Magufuli and his henchmen all but killed, and whose nefarious effects could be as debilitating as a barren political landscape.

On this one, consider this. In her recent reshuffles, to rearrange the deck chairs, Samia has been moving around government chiefs, but when she announced that the spy chief had been moved to State House as permanent secretary, the man did not show up for swearing in. Rumours swirled as to why the superspy had “snubbed” the president. Some social media posts suggested he was under house arrest. On investigation, I got to know that the man in question, about to retire, had pleaded with his boss to pass him over for the job, as he was done with public office. In the shady world of spookery — where curveballs are a popular sport — smokescreens, banana skins and disappearing targets are legion, and they are meant to bamboozle, not enlighten. Their curveball effect will keep playing out on Samia, but she has to keep going, as she has no choice.

Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]

Source:  The East African

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