IN her first 100 days as President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan has made a mark.
In the words of Bishop Benson Bagonza of Karagwe Diocese, Samia has “achieved more than expected, and has raised hopes amidst pessimism.”
Tanzania’s first female president assumed power on 19th March 2021 following the death of her predecessor, John Magufuli, to whom she was vice president until 17th March.
An almost complete opposite of her predecessor, Samia has turned tables on policy issues including changing the government’s approach on the coronavirus pandemic, reshaping the economic drive toward fourth generation industrialisation, widening the civic space, and attempting to promote good governance.
She fired some of her predecessor’s appointees with dubious records and criminal allegations, and she reinstated others that had been unceremoniously fired by Magufuli.
She ordered the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) to drop criminal charges facing over 140 people on the grounds that the charges had been trumped up. Tens of businessmen’s bank accounts that the Magufuli regime had unjustly frozen for political reasons have been released.
She has also revamped some mega projects including the construction of the Bagamoyo port, which Magufuli had completely abandoned and neglected on political grounds based on selfish contretemps between him and his predecessor, Jakaya Kikwete, a historic son of Bagamoyo.
In its first round of surveys, SAUTI KUBWA has sought independent opinion from a selected number of influential voices in Tanzania regarding Samia’s performance during her first 100 days in office. Here is what they say:
Bishop Benson Bagonza of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), Karagwe Diocese, says:
“She has achieved more than expected since she has raised hopes amidst pessimism inside and outside Tanzania. But a lot remains to be done, and her road forward will be bumpy. She has not yet addressed ideological differences that sharply divide the country, a quest for new constitution, dealing with victims of human rights abuses, and an unemployment debacle.”
“President Samia faces three obstacles in leading the mainland section of the United Republic of Tanzania. She is a woman in the middle of a patriarchal society, a Muslim inside a society dominated by Christians, and a Zanzibari surrounded by Tanganyikans. By and large, these three factors have influenced her and they continue to Influence her silent and open critics.”
Linus Kakoti, a Dar es Salaam- based political analyst expresses dissatisfaction with President Samia’s political appointments that signified her leniency toward those who directly collaborated with the late Magufuli by implementing his ruthless orders.
“I have no problem with President Samia. However, I am disturbed by the fact that she has appointed some public servants who were busy implementing oppressive orders from the former President Magufuli. These people do not deserve to be in office now.”
President Samia has so far appointed ministers, permanent secretaries, high court judges, regional commissioners, regional administrative secretaries, and district commissioners. In most of these appointments she mostly recycled the old faces, swapping their positions.
One of Samia’s highly criticised appointments is Biswalo Mganga who was promoted from Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to judge of the High Court of Tanzania.
Biswalo faces a baggage of serious allegations from many victims of Magufuli’s atrocity, some of whom publicly accuse him of abusing the DPP’s office by engaging in corrupt practices endorsed by the former regime and for personal gain.
Critics and several victims of his alleged corruption do not think he is qualified to become a judge, as they do not expect him to dispense the same justice that he has been compromising with impunity.
Maria Sarungi, a human rights activist and freedom of expression defender, says the first 100 days of Samia are “a mixed bag, as they include some hopeful steps particularly on the move to combat COVID-19.”
But she points out that President Samia has not addressed an important issue of legal framework review. Maria says the president seems reluctant on holding a formal process of justice and accountability that is essential for the country to move beyond the deep divisions and big injustices that many people suffered under Magufuli.
She empasizes: “President Samia needs to be bold enough and move swiftly on many important issues before the divisions get too deep and before we drift apart further,” Maria has called on the president to observe the necessity of constitutional reform.
Dr. Lenny Kasoga, an economist and a retired university don, is impressed by what he calls President Samia’s bold and pragmatic ambition and her quest to bring about a positively democratic culture that may finally bring about inclusive development.
To him, however, 100 days are not the best parameter in evaluating the performance of the head of state. But he emphasises that President Samia is moving in the right direction and seizing quick wins almost in every step.
“She is trying very hard to bring in progressive ideas that represent the core principles of inclusive development and has promised to bring together all stakeholders to discuss the current and future of democracy in Tanzania, which means that we should give her more time to implement her decisions,” the don says.
Nyaronyo Kicheere, a journalist-cum- lawyer, says President Samia is showing the right path towards making Tanzania a better country after five years of uncertainties.
He also compliments her stance and approach on combating Covid-19, hence drawing a clearly sharp line between herself and her Corona-denialist predecessor.
Her latest remarks on Covid-19 came on Friday this week when she addressed Catholic bishops at the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) headquarters in Kurasini, Dar es Salaam.
She asked the bishops to tell their believers that as much as it is important to pray for God’s intervention, it is equally important to rely on science in the fight against COVID-19.
Dr. Azavery Lwaitama, a usually critical University don, has little to criticise. He is on the opinion that President Samia’s 100 days in power have given great hopes to Tanzanians, who had been engulfed by fear under the previous regime.
Dr. Lwaitama sees some indications that “the people will now be free to speak up and criticise their government and even their leader.
“However, President Samia still has a challenge to allay fears of her people and ensure the safety of everyone and allow political parties and NGOs to operate freely,” Dr Lwaitama adds.