Tanzania: President Suluhu’s ally set to take control of parliament

By Abdul Halim, Dar es Salaam
Posted on Tuesday, 25 January 2022 08:56

Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania, speaks during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, 2 November 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan led a successful move to push out Job Ndugai and nominate his deputy, Tulia Ackson Mwansasu, to take control as speaker of Parliament.

On 20 January, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party held a committee meeting in Dodoma and selected Ackson to replace Ndugai, a well-known loyalist of the late President John Magufuli.

It is expected that Ackson will secure a landslide victory when the election for speaker is held on 1 February. CCM, Tanzania’s ruling party, controls the majority in parliament.

Who is Tulia Ackson Mwansasu?

Ackson was born in the south-western part of Tanzania in 1973. She studied law at the University of Dar es Salaam, both at the undergraduate and Master’s level. Her Doctor of Laws degree is from the University of Cape Town. She taught law at the University of Dar es Salaam from 2001 to 2014.

  • In 2014, then President Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as a member of the first Constituent Assembly of Tanzania to represent higher learning institutions. She worked with Suluhu, who was then deputy chairperson of the constituent assembly.
  • Kikwete later appointed Ackson as deputy attorney general, a role she served in from 9 September 2015 to 15 November 2015.
  • On 16 November 2015, Magufuli appointed her as an MP and it is during the same year that she was elected deputy speaker of parliament.
  • During the general elections held in October 2020, Ackson was elected MP for Mbeya Urban constituency.

Does Suluhu control parliament?

According to Article 62 and 63 of the constitution, the president is part of parliament and can dissolve it if it fails to pass any Bill presented by the government. The president also has the right to appoint 10 MPs.

As chairperson of the CCM, President Suluhu has the support of the parliamentary leadership as well as the majority of ruling party MPs.

“The president is above other state organs, we cannot compare her with other leaders. […] parliament will continue to work closely with the government to bring development to our people,” Ackson said while representing parliament during the inauguration of a new minister at State House Dodoma in January 2022.

What does Ackson’s appointment mean for Suluhu?

Ackson’s potential appointment means that the president will now have stronger support in parliament. Suluhu will be more confident when pushing her agenda in parliament. Her long-term plan is to retain control of the presidency when she vies for the seat in 2025.

Both Tulia and Ndugai, and even Samia [Suluhu], are working [in] an oppressive system. Tulia will change nothing in parliament because it’s a one-party parliament. Samia has just succeeded [in getting] a puppet in parliament

The removal of Ndugai sent a message to supporters of the late President Magufuli, who include Humphrey Polepole, Josephat Gwajima, Patrobas Katambi, Innocent Bashungwa and William Lukuvi.

What else does Suhulu control?

The president can appoint and fire almost all top government officials in the army, police, security agencies, judges, and ministers, deputy ministers, regional commissioners and district commissioners without consultation.

Recently, following rumours on social media that the army may intervene in the conflict between the president and incumbent parliament speaker, the military released a statement denouncing these claims, but vowed to defend the constitution while maintaining respect and protecting the president and commander-in-chief.

Promoting women

President Suhulu has gained support from women’s groups in Tanzania. Since assuming office on 19 March 2021 after Magufuli’s death, she has promoted more women into leadership positions.

She appointed veteran diplomat Liberata Mulamula as minister of foreign affairs. Mulamula is the second woman, after Asha-Rose Migiro, to hold this position since independence.

Suluhu also appointed Stergomena Tax, the former Southern African Development Community executive secretary, as the first woman defence minister in the history of Tanzania. It was therefore not a surprise when the CCM central committee chose Ackson to vie for the post of speaker of parliament.

Mixed reactions

Analysts and politicians in Tanzania have mixed opinions with regards to the selection of Ackson  and whether President Suhulu now has the full support of the CCM.

“This is just infighting within the ruling party, and with this decision, President Samia will gain more support from women’s groups, but I don’t think she will succeed to remove factions ahead of 2025,” says Isaka Msuka, a political analyst based in Dar es Salaam.

For his part, oppositionist John Heche says he expects nothing new from Ackson. “Both Tulia and Ndugai, and even Samia, are working [in] an oppressive system. Tulia will change nothing in parliament because it’s a one-party parliament. Samia has just succeeded [in getting] a puppet in parliament,” he says.

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