Talking Africa

Tanzania: “Magufuli’s war on corruption is a mafia shakedown” – Tundu Lissu

By Nicholas Norbrook

Posted on July 17, 2020 12:44

The Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu is heading home after three years of exile.

He will be arriving in Dar es Salaam on 28 July, hoping to run for the presidency on the Chadema party ticket in October elections.

“President Magufuli does not believe in the rule of law or democracy”, Lissu told The Africa Report’s podcast, Talking Africa.

“[Magufuli] has said on a number of occasions publicly that he would like to see Tanzania reverting back to the dark days of one party rule”, says Lissu, “and he has done a lot to see that vision come to fruition”.

Which can be illustrated, Lissu adds, by the fact that he has been in exile for the last three years.

“It’s not a matter of having a thin skin for criticism”, says Lissu speaking to President Magufuli’s reluctance to countenance debate. “He doesn’t have any skin at all”.

READ MORE Is Magufuli’s economic nationalism working?

Instead, all criticism is met with repression, he says.

He should know.

In 2017, gunmen sprayed 30 rounds into his car, leaving him close to death.

Robert Amsterdam, Lissu’s lawyer, says they are investigating the attempted assassination.

The probe has “turned up people with information, and at the appropriate time we will release what information we have established”, says Amsterdam.

“And we certainly want to let all those in Tanzania that the world will be watching upon his return”, adds Amsterdam, who says he is writing a formal memo to Tanzanian authorities, “putting them on notice that their behaviour will be scrutinised not only by the judiciary in Tanzania but by international fora outside Tanzania.”

Amsterdam, whose firm was behind the extraction of Bobi Wine at the height of opposition repression in Uganda, believes that turning to Washington is no longer the answer.

Instead, he believes the increased influence of the European Union and Asia, and the growth of communications technology, has changed the game opposition leaders in East Africa.

READ MORE Tanzania has what it takes to be ‘African economic giant’

Despite pronouncements from the World Bank that Tanzania will reach middle income status five years early, Lissu says the World Bank is ‘credulous’ in accepting the statistics.

Lissu is trying to put together a national opposition alliance, including the Zanzibari nationalists, disputing attempts to characterise them as Islamist in motivation.

He warns that if Tanzania is allowed to slide into chaos, as he predicts under Magufuli, then it will rob the region of the country’s traditional ‘shock-absorber’. The country often provides shelter for refugees fleeing internal violence.

Lissu is also skeptical of President Magufuli’s ‘war on corruption’, saying it is just way of raising cash. “It’s a mafia shakedown”, he says.

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