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On 30 April, 2021 barely one month after the sudden death of President John Magufuli, who was also the ruling party chairman, members of the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) convened in Dodoma to elect Samia Suluhu Hassan as the next party leader.
The process, which followed Article 37 of the Constitution, was executed quickly to ensure that she not only controlled the country but also the ruling party. However, one question remains: Has Hassan managed to control CCM? Barely five months since she took up the top position, the president is failing to defuse the friction and faction within the ruling party.
It’s been almost 46 days since Hassan kicked off the Covid-19 vaccination campaign, but a large number of Magufuli’s loyalists, within the CCM and in parliament, continue to publicly resist the initiative. Several MPs have been summoned and questioned for violating the party’s ethics as well as going against the leadership.
Kawe MP Bishop Josephat Gwajima, who comes from Magufuli’s tribe, has been publicly condemning the vaccines. “Vaccines are dangerous, we must be very keen. Some leaders have been bribed to import vaccines into the country. I don’t encourage people to take vaccines.”
President Hassan is seen by Magufuli loyalists as a threat, as someone who wants to dismiss all plans and the legacy put in place by the Magufuli regime…
Gwajima is among those who have been summoned for giving misleading information about the vaccination campaign that was initiated by Hassan on 2 July. He was consequently suspended from two parliament sessions.
A senior member of CCM’s central committee tells The Africa Report that the president needs to remove all Magufuli loyalists within the party leadership. “[…] if she (President Hassan) wants to succeed in her mission, she should remove [the] former president’s loyalists inside our party; CCM is divided and [it is] mostly Magufuli supporters [who] believe they are sidelined. The president has no option for now.”
As she struggles to fight against these loyalists, the president is also seeking support among party factions ahead of the 2025 poll as she intends to seek party nomination.
Suspension of newspapers
On 6 September, Tanzanian authorities suspended yet another newspaper after it was accused of publishing false stories. The decision came despite Hassan’s earlier pledge to uphold media freedom, which had been curtailed by her predecessor.
Raia Mwema, a weekly Kiswahili newspaper, was suspended for 30 days for what the government chief spokesperson Gerson Msigwa says was “repeatedly publishing false information and deliberate incitement.”
Msigwa cited three stories, including one about a gunman who killed four people in a rampage at a diplomatic quarter within Tanzania’s commercial city, Dar es Salaam. The article linked the gunman to the ruling CCM party, with Msigwa adding that the publication violated the 2016 Media Service Act.
In August, Hassan’s government made its first suspension. The CCM-owned Uhuru Newspaper was reprimanded for allegedly publishing what was termed as a false story, which stated that President Hassan would not run for office in 2025.
At the end of the day, despite being seen as a soft-spoken politician, and having demonstrated goodwill in the beginning to defend and protect media freedom, she has not initiated any process to amend the draconian laws that were passed by her predecessor, Magufuli. Instead, she continues to use those same laws to silence the media.
It is unfortunate and surprising to see the government take this action. We don’t believe that we made a mistake, but because they wield power, they can choose to do whatever they want.
On top of that, people such as Msigwa and Hassan Abbas (the permanent secretary in the ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports), who were muzzling the press and citizens’ freedom of expression during Magufuli’s regime, are still trusted by the president to supervise the media.
“It is unfortunate and surprising to see the government take this action. We don’t believe that we made a mistake, but because they wield power, they can choose to do whatever they want,” Joseph Milangwa, an editor at Raia Mwema tells The Africa Report in Dar es Salaam.
Rights activists and politicians have condemned the government decision to shut down the press. “We have been calling for constitutional reforms in order to get away from these things. Independent and active media are key elements of development. We need a complete overhaul of our constitution,” says Emmanuel Chengula, a human rights activist based in Morogoro.
Power struggle ahead of 2025 elections
The struggle for power has been a focal point among different factions within the ruling party. Since assuming office in March, Hassan has implemented several policies initiated by her predecessor, a move that has drawn both negative and positive reactions from within and outside her party.
Under the CCM constitution and that of the country as well, Hassan is eligible to run for office for another five-year term. She has however not yet declared intentions to do so in the 2025 elections. In spite of this, members who are loyal to Magufuli’s policies feel uncomfortable with Hassan, and believe she is taking Tanzania down the wrong path.
“President Hassan is seen by Magufuli loyalists as a threat, as someone who wants to dismiss all plans and the legacy put in place by the Magufuli regime. So they are angry and do not want her to be CCM’s flag bearer in the upcoming elections. She needs to be very careful,” one Magufuli loyalist and MP from Mwanza region tells The Africa Report, on condition of anonymity.
When Magufuli was alive, he created divisions within the CCM by giving more power to those hailing from his home region in the northwest of Tanzania. For Hassan, who hails from the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago, though she may not have much support from CCM, former President Jakaya Kikwete – still a popular figure within the ruling party – has remained by her side.
If Hassan has any desire to run for presidency in 2025, she won’t be able to get far without uniting all factions within the CCM and providing a coherent, clear interpretation of her government’s policies to the people of Tanzania; policies meant to be a departure from her predecessor.
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