The Tanzanian politician, Tundu Lissu, who has been recuperating at Nairobi Hospital after a gun attack in Dodoma in September speaks to Aggrey Omboki about his health and politics.
How are you doing?
I have had several operations to restore the use of my arms and legs, and to remove the bullet fragments from my lower torso, so after a long period of ill health, I am now firmly on the road to recovery. Doctors are impressed with my progress, which they term miraculous since it has been quite rapid despite the extent of my injuries.
Can you briefly describe the events behind the incident that led to your hospitalisation?
I had been participating in parliamentary proceedings during which we discussed the issue of agreement between the Malawian and Tanzanian governments regarding the River Songwe.
At around 1pm I headed home which is in a compound housing the Energy Minister Dr Medard Kalemani, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Tulia Ackson, and other senior state officials. On arriving in the parking lot which is always guarded by police officers, I was attacked by two men in a vehicle with tinted windows. They shot at my car. I did not get a clear view of the assailants.
Three weeks prior to the attack, you had complained of being followed in a car by unidentified men, and even mentioned the registration number of the said vehicle. What is your view about the state’s failure to arrest the suspects since then?
As a party [Chadema] and family, we are worried the government is yet to arrest the suspects despite my public complaints about being followed in a car.
The fact that I was shot in a compound where government officials live and up to now CCTV footage is yet to be released from cameras installed outside the Energy Minister’s house, which is one floor below mine, points to a deliberate attempt to cover up the events of that day. From Dr Kalemani’s house, the cameras have a clear view of the parking lot, and the lack of that footage is a worrying development.
Are you saying that the Tanzanian government is not interested in tracing the culprits behind the attack?
It has been more than 70 days since I was attacked and no suspects have been arrested. In addition, there have been a number of deliberate attempts by the police and other state security agencies to prevent my well-wishers and supporters from visiting me and donating blood towards my treatment. All these actions point towards an attempt to cover up the truth.
President John Magufuli could however order the police to involve independent international investigators in the matter if he wishes to have the matter resolved once and for all, and I sincerely hope he does so.
I appreciate the visit by Vice President Suluhu Hassan and view it as a sign of goodwill by the state and a willingness to ensure that justice is done.
Have your often controversial views on the state of governance in Tanzania changed since the attack?
My resolve remains unshaken and the Lissu who was active in politics before the September 7 attack is still very much around. There is a need to fight for democracy, the rights of the people, to ensure we have a government that caters for their development needs and protects their rights, and I will not retreat from the struggle.
What is your take on the failure by parliament to cater for your medical treatment and the reluctance of your colleagues to visit you in hospital?
As a parliamentarian, the law stipulates that my treatment be paid for, but this is yet to be done. My colleagues including the Speaker and clerk of the National Assembly and the Parliamentary Service Committee are yet to visit me.
Only two colleagues came, but in their individual capacity, as they did not have any message from the committee. I am not asking for charity, but the justice that is due to me as a parliamentarian according to the law.
What do you miss most?
As a practising advocate, I miss attending court sessions to argue my cases before the judges and magistrates, where I can clearly bring out the difference between truth and lies. I also miss playing soccer.
Will you run for president in the 2020 elections?
This is an issue I would rather discuss when I am finally out of the hospital. I will not talk about it from a hospital bed in Nairobi since it relates to the Tanzanian people, who deserve to hear about it on their home soil.
Opposition parties have lately been hit by a string of defections to the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi. Do you think this will weaken the opposition?
Chadema members who are leaving such as Laurence Masha, Patroba Katambi and David Kafulila, are free to do so, since democracy is all about personal choices.
Masha was originally in CCM and has returned. Kafulila was initially in Chadema, then went to NCCR, then CCM, then joined Chadema, before going back to CCM.
Such flop flops show a lack of principle. I can only wish the defectors well, but my loyalty to the cause remains steadfast.
Dr Walid Kabur, who was our secretary general and Dr Wilbrod Slaa, who served was MP for three terms, are further examples in a long list of defectors whose departure has failed to stop the party from gaining millions of followers since its formation in 1992.
These individuals’ departure has actually created space for more principled members to take their place.