Tanzania: What’s next for Hassan after pushing out parliament speaker Ndugai?

By Abdul Halim, in Dar es Salaam
Posted on Wednesday, 12 January 2022 10:51

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan addresses delegates after the signing framework agreements with the government of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 13 December 2021. REUTERS/Emmanuel Herman

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan is consolidating her power within the ruling party since she succeeded in pushing Job Ndugai out of his duties as the speaker of Tanzania’s parliament.

On 6 January, Ndugai resigned days after clashing with the president over the government’s external loans. He argued that borrowing for development projects is not “sustainable”.

A veteran politician in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and a close ally of the late president John Magufuli, Ndugai has been a member of parliament for more than 20 years and was speaker of parliament for seven years.

The speaker said his resignation was a personal and voluntary decision taken in the interest of the country.

Loans in the spotlight

President Hassan had accused Ndugai of planning to sabotage her for political reasons after he commented about the country’s loans. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated Tanzania’s gross debt at 39.7% of gross domestic product in 2021, which is much lower than its peers.

The question should be where are those external loans directed to? We need loans to improve our infrastructure, revive our economy, especially in tourism, entrepreneurship and education sectors.

She had just announced a new loan from the IMF when the speaker commented that the country was at risk of being auctioned off.

Earlier, Ndugai issued a public apology to Hassan, which she rejected. She said everything that was happening had to do with political interests in the 2025 general elections.

How much control does she have?

President Hassan wants to run for re-election, and opposition from within the ruling CCM is currently a bigger threat than the opposition.

The constitution gives power to the president to control almost all state affairs, so Hassan has got a lot of sway.

Her power also can be seen rising in the ruling party after gaining support to get rid of dissenting voices. Ruling party officials across the country intensified pressure that led to Ndugai’s resignation.

“We welcomed Ndugai’s resignation. He was a member of the central committee so if he didn’t agree with external borrowing he should speak in the meeting instead of coming out and utter such nonsense in public. It’s our duty to protect our president,” said Livingstone Lusinde, a member of parliament for Mvumi constituency who is also a member of the ruling party executive committee.

Another member of parliament, Bishop Josephat Gwajima said: “Ndugai’s statement was wrong and aimed at undermining government efforts to bring development to the country.”

President Hassan also reshuffled her cabinet to get rid of Magufuli’s loyalists. On 9 January, she expelled ministers seen as ongoing loyalists to the late Magufuli.

The expelled ministers include Palamagamba Kabudi, Kitila Mkumbo, Godfrey Mwambe, Willium Lukuzi and Mwita Waitara. President Hassan claimed they were sabotaging the government.

Responding to critics

The Africa Report contacted several economic analysts about the country’s borrowing practices. Honest Ngowi says it is hard for Tanzania to implement its development agenda without external borrowing.

“The question should be where are those external loans directed to? We need loans to improve our infrastructure, revive our economy, especially in tourism, entrepreneurship and education sectors,” says Ngowi, a professor at Mzumbe University.

Economic analyst Haji Abdi states clearly that reducing external borrowing should go hand in hand by increasing capacity to collect revenue.

“I see Ndugai’s comments on the other side of the coin. We have got so many resources like minerals and natural gas. We must build capacity so that these resources can increase our local revenue. Borrowing should be the next option,” says Abdi.

Responding to critics, Hassan said that since independence Tanzania has been depending on external borrowing to finance its strategic development projects. “My government will continue to see fair external loans to bring development to our people. I swear to serve the people of Tanzania.”

Her trajectory since taking over in March 2021?

Since taking office in March last year President Hassan has distanced herself from some policies that were implemented by her predecessor.

She has changed the denialism policy that was implemented by the Magufuli administration in dealing with Covid-19. Her government encouraged the importation of vaccines while also urging citizens to follow scientific measures.

In the area of human rights and freedom of expression, President Hassan also has taken different steps. 

Internationally, she has also encouraged engagement with regional and global communities through engagement with regional partners like Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

Bottom line

President Hassan has just started getting rid of Magufuli loyalists and gaining more support within the ruling party. She will also be looking to build up her base in areas where Magufuli had strong support, like Mwanza, Shinyanga, Geita, Kagera and Simiyu.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options