Ahmed Rajab 15 Jun 2016
There are a number of ominous things about the Magufuli administration. The concern is that Tanzania is looking more and more like a police state. The term “police state” describes a government that ensures its rule through the use of force.
As I write, I’ve heard that Zitto Kabwe, leader of the ACT-Wazalendo opposition party and also Member of Parliament, was sought by police last weekend, while, in Mwanza on Sunday, CHADEMA Chairman Freeman Mbowe spent two hours in police custody.
Just recently, the Tanzania Police Force banned all public political meetings and demonstrations. The police say they have banned demonstrations because they pose a threat to national security.
Though the ban applies to all parties, it obviously targets those in the opposition. There’s a rumor that this order came from high up in the CCM government.
After the ban, police were used to disperse a gathering of CHADEMA supporters in Kahama, in Shinyanga Region. The police charged that opposition supporters had gathered to attend a public meeting of CHADEMA, despite the ban on such meetings.
It has been reported that police used force and teargas, even in a hospital - without regard patients’ safety - near where the meeting was to be held. Is this civilized behavior? Is this the Tanzania people describe as “an island of peace”?
Proving that they were serious about the ban on public meetings, the police brought twenty-two CHADEMA supporters to Shinyanga court, charging them with gathering illegally.
Another sign of trouble is when a leader is free to use any word at all, like “useless good-for-nothing” and “idiot” (bwege) or “derelict” and “lay-about” (malofa) to describe his subjects, or the opposition. But anyone else using those very words to reproach the government or a specific official will be interrogated by police, or even sentenced to prison.
This happened to the young man Isaac Ababuki, sentenced by the Arusha court to three years in prison and a fine of five million Tanzanian shillings. After his lawyer filed objections and an appeal, Abubaki’s punishment was reduced to a fine of three million Tanzanian shillings. Should he fail to pay, he will have to serve a prison sentence.
Ababuki was tried under the Cyber Crimes Law, on charges that he insulted President John Magufuli on his Facebook page. Ababuki had written there that no comparison can be made between Magufuli and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania’s First Administration, because Magufuli is “an idiot” (bwege).
During last October’s political campaigning, in public, Consul Seif Ali Idi called Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad “an idiot” (bwege) - this, while Hamad was the First Vice President as well and the Secretary General of the Civic United Front. Yet we heard of absolutely no government agency taking any steps against him for having insulted a government official who outranked him.
What Seif Ali Idi said was this: “Since the elections of 1995, Seif has been complaining that he has won, but that his victories are stolen from him by force. So, you’re the one always being robbed? You must be an idiot.”*
It is also believed that he was robbed of victory in the 2015 elections, this time in public view and shocking the entire world, including the AU and the SADC - organizations that have a long tradition of standing by African officials when it comes to election time. Even they objected to ZEC Chairman Jecha Salim Jecha’s decision to cancel the election.
This country is coming to look like the one that British author George Orwell called “Animal Farm.” In that novel, the pigs who controlled the government declared: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
To be continued….
*“Tangu uchaguzi wa 1995 Seif amekuwa akilalamika kuwa anashinda lakini anapokonywa ushindi wake basi kila siku unapokonywa wewe tu? Basi bwege.”
Chanzo: Raia Mwema