Tanzania: First 100 days under Hassan marked by stark contrast to Magufuli, but more to be done

By Abdul Halim, in Dar es Salaam
Posted on Friday, 9 July 2021 10:29

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan (C) arrives to address a joint parliamentary session in Nairobi, Kenya, 5 May 2021. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

Tanzania's President Samia Hassan Suluhu Hassan marked 100 days since she took over as president of United Republic of Tanzania on 19 March after the sudden death of her predecessor, John Magufuli. The government is now rolling out science and healthcare measures to respond to the Covid pandemic, but oppositionists say she is not liberalising the country's politics fast enough.

Since she took office President Hassan, who is from the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar, has distanced herself from some of the controversial policies that was implemented by Magufuli. He denied that the global Covid-19 pandemic was a problem, silenced any dissenting voices and was in conflict with some foreign investors.

She is taking a more moderate path than Magufuli but has yet to announce all the policies she hopes to pursue during the rest of her term.

A science-based approach to Covid-19

In her 100 days, President Hassan has completely changed the way Tanzania fights against Covid-19. She stated clearly that Tanzania cannot work alone in fighting the pandemic, a move that has been hailed by regional and international organisations like the World Health Organization.

Her government declared that the country has been hit by a third wave of the pandemic. She told reporters in Tanzania that more than 100 people are in treatment for Covid-19.

However, the government is still not releasing daily data on cases and their outcomes.

The country has joined the COVAX programme to assist countries in getting vaccines. Tanzania is expected to receive vaccines in 2022.

In public appearances, President Hassan is regularly seen wearing masks, and state media, like the TV channel TBC, have started creating content based on science and reporting openly about the disease.

On the streets and in hospitals

In the streets of the commercial capital Dar es Salaam and the administrative capital Dodoma, people continue with their daily lives while taking precautions, some of them wearing masks but some still arguing Magufuli’s stand was right.

In undertaking all these efforts, some Magufuli supporters have questioned her capabilities. But generally President Hassan is gaining popular support among Tanzanians.

The president of the Tanzania Medical Association, doctor Shadrack Mwaibambe tells The Africa Report in Dar es Salaam that the government is now allowing health experts to lead the fight against the pandemic.

“We fully support the government on this move, as health experts we will work freely and use our expertise to help the government about this pandemic and educate Tanzanians. I also salute the government’s move to join COVAX. We will also work hard to ensure our country succeeds in this fight.”

Seeking political space

President Hassan has also opened the political space — somewhat. It was severely closed off during Magufuli’s era.

But in the eyes of many opposition leaders and political analysts, things will not improve for the opposition due to laws restricting competition in politics. And despite Hassan making a promise to meet opposition leaders, nothing has happened.

We need a constitution that will reduce powers from the president. We saw what happened in the last five years where the powers of the president created fears among Tanzanians. We need to have checks and balances in the government.

Hassan also asked the opposition to give her time to reform the economy before holding rallies. Activists and politicians complained that the political playing field should be levelled immediately.

Calling for a constitution

John Heche, the immediate former member of parliament for Tarime, says the only solution for fairer politics is to have a new constitution.

“We need a new constitution that will protect, preserve and promote free and fair ground on politics,” says Heche, a central committee member of the main opposition party, Chadema.

On 3 July, former attorney general Frederick Werema said he also believed it is a right time to start debating a new constitution.

“We need a constitution that will reduce powers from the president. We saw what happened in the last five years where the powers of the president created fears among Tanzanians. We need to have checks and balances in the government,” said Werema, who resigned in 2014.

Resetting foreign relations

President Hassan visited Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique, moves to repair strained relations under Magufuli – an insular figure who made just 10 trips abroad during his six years in office.

And Tanzania’s new foreign minister’s claims the government will soon ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which will support continental integration.

In Kenya, President Hassan reaffirmed Tanzania’s commitment to maintain and further the relationship that deteriorated during Magufuli’s era.

“Our relationship with Kenya is very important, the President needs to further relationships with all neighbouring countries. And secondly, the President needs to engage with multilateral organisations to reaffirm Tanzania stand on number of issues like human rights and others,” Israel Msoka, an expert on international relations tells The Africa Report in Dar es Salaam.

Doing business

There are also indications of a change in the business environment, with the President urging her government not to “flex our muscles against investors”. Although easily forgotten, the previous administration made similar overtures early in its second term.

Hassan has a relatively clean slate and is being endorsed by prominent businesspeople and multinationals.

But the economic challenges she inherited, mostly linked to the global impact of the coronavirus crisis, make her job tough.

The economy grew by 7% in 2019 but then by just 1% in 2020. The International Monetary Fund is predicting growth of 2.7% in 2021.

Bottom line

While the first 100 days gave a first look at Hassan’s governing style, the country is waiting to see what she delivers on economic development, political freedoms, health, education and a litany of other areas that are important to the country’s voters, who have traditionally delivered strong support for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party.

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