A black cloud is hanging over Tanzani’a politics, as the executive is divided amidst accusations of influencing the parliament in a new move by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Job Ndugai, to strip ailing MP Tundu Lissu of his parliamentary seat.
Analysts say the House Speaker’s decision is mainly aimed at crippling Lissu’s political ambitions, particularly his presidential bid in the 2020 general election. The Singida East MP, who survived an assassination attempt in September 2017, has been undergoing treatment since then, first in Nairobi, Kenya, then in Brussels, Belgium.
But Ndugai emphasized on Friday last week that the MP was an absentee whose whereabouts the speaker did not know. He also said Lissu had not filled in forms that require him to declare his wealth, a malpractice that would automatically disqualify him from becoming a member of parliament.
Of course, Lissu’s survival from the assassination attempt and his continued treatment in Nairobi and Brussels would serve as enough evidence and reason for his absence from parliament for nearly two years – but not in Ndugai’s understanding.
SAUTI KUBWA understands that Ndugai was acting on “instructions from above” especially after Lissu had made it clear that he would be returning home on September 7, 2019. Word is our that President John Magufuli personally instructed the speaker to make sure Lissu returns to Tanzania as a common citizen, not as a parliamentarian.
A high profile source from the ruling party confided anonymously: “The president is wary of Lissu’s influence and eloquence in parliament where he enjoys parliamentary immunity that he might use to castigate the government and parliament for abandoning him during his time of need. The parliament, on instructions from the state house, refrained from footing his medical bills. Remember, the president is on record telling the speaker to expel the so-called ‘troublesome’ MPs from parliament so that he deals with them outside parliament.
“Ndugai tabled the motion in the ruling party’s recent Central Committee to seek official endorsement. But there was a divided opinion over the matter. All the same, Ndugai went ahead and executed it because it was the president’s order.”
Even after the decision had been announced in parliament, causing mixed reactions from the public, the Prime Minister and the Vice President sought an audience with the president to politely protest the speaker’s action.
The VP and PM are quoted to have told the president that Ndugai’s action was badly timed, as the public accused him of acting with ill motive, inhumanly and insensitively; and that the move would have adverse effects on the ruling party.
Sources quoted the VP saying the country’s human rights records would plummet, insisting that in all international and regional conferences, she has been facing human rights queries. The president, however, responded that he did not want Lissu to use his parliamentary privileges to destabilise his government.
The main opposition party to which Lissu belongs, Chadema, has resolved to take the matter to the courts of law. If all avenues fail, it is ready to opt for other political and social actions, said the party’s secretary general, Dr Vincent Mashinji.
Should the court uphold the speaker’s decision, Lissu will be disqualified from contesting a parliamentary seat for five years as per section 67(2) d of the constitution, and he will automatically be disqualified from running for president in accordance with section 39(1)d of the same.
The provisions do not necessarily apply to Lissu’s case but the speaker is trying to frame up the matter to serve his intention against the opposition chief whip who miraculously survived the assassination attempt in which 16 bullets hit his stomach, arms and legs, leading to a total of 22 surgeries on his body.
At the inception of Magufuli’s brutality against government critics in 2016, Lissu nicknamed him a “petty dictator,” but what has been happening in Tanzania since then, particularly during the two years of Lissu’s treatment prove that the president has become a full-fledged dictator.
From all corners of the country, the speaker suffered a barrage of criticism over his action, while some government apologists argued in his defence.