District commissioner’s brutal corporal punishment further taints Magufuli’s administration

Kenani Kihongosi, Mkuu wa Wilaya ya Arusha

PRESIDENT John Magufuli’s leadership style of condoning oppression and his disregard for rule of law are blamed for inculcating a sense of narcissism among his aides, becoming the face of the recent brutality by a district commissioner in Arusha who shamelessly and fearlessly caned seven people in public, SAUTI KUBWA has learnt.

On many occasions in the past five years, Magufuli has been rewarding and promoting some of his demagogic appointees, a habit that makes his new appointees follow suit in search of fresh recognition from him.

In some cases, the president has been castigating, discrediting and reprimanding some of his aides in public during live televised events.

He once publicly admitted to “abusing” some of his senior ministers – including Prof. Palamagamba Kabudi and Augustine Mahiga (RIP) who, on one occasion held at the State House in Dar es Salaam (2019), stood up and bowed before him in a rare acknowledgement of his abusive behaviour towards them.

Magufuli is also on record firing civil servants in public against the laws and regulations. He has been praising some of his aides who brutalise and harass civil servants. As a result, some of his district and regional commissioners have arbitrarily assumed the roles of the judiciary – passing sentences and executing punishments.

In October 2019, President Magufuli congratulated Mbeya Regional Commissioner Albert Chalamila for caning students at Kiwanja Secondary School in Chunya District. The students had been suspected of being involved in setting ablaze two dormitories at the school.

The students were not given the privilege of being heard. The severe punishment was carried out by the commissioner in front of other students and teachers. The brutal act was recorded and disseminated by the media.

This week, about a year after the Chalamila episode, another Magufuli’s appointee – The Arusha District Commissioner, Kenan Kihongosi, committed the same crime.

Kihongosi, who was previously quoted condoning the murder of President Magufuli’s critics, caned four businessmen and three students. He accused them of stealing school furniture at Sinoni Secondary School and selling it as scrap metal.

Livino Haule, a lawyer of JOPA Attorneys in Mbeya, explains that in any case, the district commissioner is at fault for taking the law into his own hands, a step that Tanzanian laws do prohibit.

“This district commissioner has violated the principles of separation of powers. He has intervened in the work of the judiciary. These are mistakes that presidential aides should not commit,” he said.

An uncle of one of the young traders, speaking on condition of anonymity, condemned the action by the district commissioner.

He said the move was brutal and showed how young leaders do not follow the rules and regulations, hence becoming autocrats who do not respect human rights.

“This regime is nurturing a breed of leaders who are authoritarian. They are corrupted by reputation and power, they do not follow the rules of justice. If someone is at fault, it is not under the DC’s powers to judge and punish. It is ridiculous,” he said.

Public comments on social media – particularly Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – are outrightly critical of Kihongosi’s deed on the grounds that he has abused political power to oppress the people in question.

Despite public criticism of his brutal act, Kihongosi yesterday addressed a press conference to justify his atrocity.

In the past, when similar acts occurred, the appointing authority was quick to take action.

In 2009, when Bukoba District Commissioner Albert Mnali ordered police to cane 32 teachers from three schools in Katerero, Kanazi and Kasenene in Kagera region, then President Jakaya Kikwete took action. He fired the DC.

The White House statement followed, emphasising: “The DC has violated the code of conduct for the public service and has insulted the office and the district administration.”

Even the Commission on Human Rights and Good Governance condemned Mnali’s action. The Commission said the act was a violation of human rights and had degraded human dignity and damaged the dignity of teachers, their families and society at large.

The statement read: “The act is a violation of human rights and the principles of good governance in accordance with the laws of the land, in particular, the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977 and international conventions that protect human rights and the principles of good governance that Tanzania has ratified.”

The Commission stated that Article 13 (6)(e) of the Constitution of Tanzania (1977) prohibits cruel punishments by stating: “It is prohibited for a person to be tortured, punished or cruelly punished or humiliated.”

Legal positions on physical punishment

Corporal punishment is legal in Tanzania but is regulated by a number of statutes relating to the education sector, the domestic sector, and penal institutions sector.

In the education sector, corporal punishment is carried out in accordance with the valid judgment of the Headmaster, under section 61(1)(v) of the Education Act Chapter 353, as revised in 2002.

This section empowers the Minister of Education to enact various principles to make our schools a safe and educational place for all students.

The Ministry of Education already enacted Regulations to regulate corporal punishments since 2002. These regulations were published through Government Gazette No. 294. They are called, “The Education (Corporal Punishment) Regulation, Government Notice No. 294 of 2002.”

These principles provide guidance on the type, extent and timing of appropriate corporal punishments to students at school.

The regulations stipulate that corporal punishment will be imposed if there is serious misconduct; that, corporal punishment should be imposed based on age, gender and health of the student; that corporal punishment should not exceed four (4) strokes in any event; that, the task of administering corporal punishment in the relevant case is the responsibility of the Headmaster of the school concerned or the teacher designated by the Headmaster.

That, in order to facilitate inspection, whenever necessary, records of physical torture given to students should be recorded in a special book, stating the name of the student, the offence committed, the number of lashes and the name of the teacher who gave the relevant punishment; and that, such records must be signed by the Headmaster.

In the domestic sector, the Child Act (2009) allows parents to spank children, as a means of correcting them (sec. 13), but prohibits the use of force to impose cruel punishments that could harm a child (sec.3 and 13). And the Marriage Act (1971) strictly forbids corporal punishment or any other punishment to a spouse (sec. 66).

In the penal institutions’ sector, corporal punishments are carried out in accordance with the lawful jurisdiction of the court under section 25 of the Penal Code, Chapter 16.

Specifically, corporal punishment in the form of strokes is enshrined in a specific law, “The Corporal Punishment Act,” which is interpreted by the court after receiving and testing the relevant evidence. In this regard, even the Child Prison Regulations (2012) allow corporal punishment as a final punishment (sec.43 (8)).