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Tanzania: Is President John Magufuli a Dictator?



Dar es Salaam — Opposition parties will have a daunting task selling their policies to Tanzanians against President John Magufuli’s government, if the recent Twaweza report is anything to go by.

According to the survey entitled Democracy, Dictatorship and Demonstrations: What Do Citizens Really Think? a whopping 80 per cent of Tanzanians want the Opposition to accept defeat and help the government to develop the country, only 11 per cent think Tanzania is currently being led by a dictator compared to 58 per cent who think otherwise. A total of 60 per cent support the President’s ban on political rallies, while only 16 per cent are aware of Chadema’s defiance campaign (Ukuta) and a mere 9 per cent would have turned out had defiance protests taken place on September 1.

However, concern has been raised over the methodology used in the study which was conducted in late August using a sample of 1,602 respondents across Mainland Tanzania.

Activist and commentator Marjorie Mbilinyi said judging by figures alone wasn’t the best way of analysing the situation on the ground.

“It is important to widen the scope of this matter instead of looking at it from a perspective of just an individual. When we talk of dictatorship, we are talking of a system, so people were supposed to be asked if they, for instance, fully participate in decision making on development issues,” said Prof Mbilinyi.

On the other hand, the survey shows that 51 per cent of the respondents believe that when the Opposition hold rallies outside the election period, it keeps the government on track and that expedites development, 49 per cent believe the vice versa is true.

A total of 69 per cent of Tanzanians believe that democracy is the preferred form of government, while 86 per cent say many political parties are needed to offer real choices on who should govern them while 95 per cent agree that citizens should be allowed to criticise the government when they believe it is on the wrong.

A political science don at St Augustine University and member of Chadema’s Central Committee, Prof Mwesiga Baregu, told The Citizen over the phone that the study carries inconsistent results which reveals methodological flaws.

“If 86 per cent believe in multiparty politics, 95 per cent want to be allowed to criticise the government, 51 per cent believe opposition rallies are healthy for development and keeping government on track, then how come from the very same respondents there are 60 per cent who support the ban on political rallies? That’s not scientifically plausible; it’s a massive flaw” he said, adding:

“I have always been having problems with Twaweza’s methodology anyway… and no one expected 100 per cent approval but telling me only 16 per cent of Tanzanians are aware of Ukuta is laughable.”

Similar views were expressed by national chairman of NCCR-Mageuzi James Mbatia who said such a variation can be obtained when the methodology is cooked, or when you have respondents who don’t know what they’re talking about.

The ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe told journalists said he believes in the study for it takes a research to counter a research.

“However, while President Magufuli might not be a dictator of the Iddi Amin Dada or Mobutu Seseko category, he’s in the crop of leaders who provide, construct roads, buy aircraft but they don’t want to be questioned, and that is not acceptable. In democracy, people must be allowed to question their leaders and get answers.”

According to Mr Kabwe, while it was noteworthy that the support for multiparty system grew from 20 per cent in 1992 to 86 per cent this year, democratic freedoms are presently being crushed. “Today, we have about 12 people standing trial for criticising the government in online platforms; we’re becoming another North Korea.”

For his part, CCM spokesperson Christopher ole Sendeka said the study captured well the situation on the ground. He observed that while CCM planned to counter opposition rallies across the country, it withdrew the plan so as to abide by Police Force order since legally, it has the last say on rallies.

According to ole Sendeka, it is only a small portion of the people, especially Chadema supporters and the rich, who are affected by Magufuli’s crackdown on corruption, who believe that the President is a dictator.

“They (Chadema) knew that they lost support and are now finding excuses by saying a dictator is ignoring the Constitution, but President Magufuli is using powers conferred to him by the Constitution to clean up the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, as if they anticipated criticism against their methodology, Twaweza staff made time to explain. The organisation’s executive director Aidan Eyakuze defended their mobile phone survey, saying it is cost effective and reliable. He cited the US as one of the developed countries where the method is used.

The study manager, Mr Melania Omengo, told journalists that they randomly picked their respondents and matched their percentage on the basis of gender, location (urban, rural), age and education level as presented in the last national households survey to reflect the actual situation on the ground.

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