Anne Makinda, Tanzania’s new Speaker of parliament is not new to leadership.
She was involved in politics as early as in primary school where she was an active member of the youth wing of the Tanganyika African National Union (Tanu), the party of independence of mainland Tanzania.
A daughter of a Regional Commissioner during Nyerere’s era, Makinda was born on July 15, 1949 in Njombe, Iringa region, and attended Masasi Girls (O Level, 1965-1968) where she was the chairperson of the Tanu Youth League branch.
At Kilakala Girls’ Secondary School (Marian College) where she studied for her A-Level from 1969 to 1970, she was appointed student leader.
The school, she says, was run by Salvatorian Sisters who being foreigners, left all political affairs in the hands of students.
The 61-year-old Njombe South MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi) garnered 265 votes in the race for House Speaker recently, defeating the opposition candidate Mabere Marando, who got 53 votes of the 327 ballots. Nine votes were spoilt.
With CCM having 251 seats in parliament against the combined opposition’s 82 seats, Makinda’s victory shows that both the ruling party and the opposition MPs had enough confidence in her to vote for her.
Makinda, the first woman Speaker in Tanzania and the region, stepped into the shoes of Samuel Sitta, the flamboyant Urambo East MP, whose one-term-tenure will remain as of the most tumultuous in the history of Bunge.
Speaking to The EastAfrican in Dodoma recently after being elected Speaker, Makinda said she has been an MP for 35 years.
“I have been successful because I have been open with my electorate. Other people cheat to get support and when they fail, voters dump them,” said Makinda.
Makinda has promised to mould the legislature into an inclusive, strong and independent institution.
“The House will strive to deliver services to all Tanzanians. The institution will represent the interests of the people — not groups or individuals,” said Makinda in her acceptance speech shortly after her election.
President Jakaya Kikwete was among the first to congratulate Makinda on her election, saying it was a milestone for both the country and the ruling party, promising her his full support in her work in parliament and beyond.
On priorities, Makinda said she will enhance efficiency in parliamentary service to MPs to make sure the government gets value for its money.
She said she will also reinforce the research unit and provide training to the MPs to impart House rules and standing orders for better House discussions and smooth operations.
Makinda, however, noted that MPs must strictly adhere to Parliamentary Standing Orders in their deliberations in the House.
“No research, no right to speak,” the newly elected Speaker said.
“If the MPs and I understand House regulations and Standing Orders, there will be smooth operations given the diverse nature of the composition of this parliament,” she noted.
She said that the current parliament was composed of many young and educated MPs and it would be wise for them to understand the Standing Orders.
On future plans, Makinda said after completing her term as Njombe South MP, she will not seek re-election.
She expressed gratitude to the electorate and promised to serve them diligently, acknowledging the heavy responsibility and challenges of her position.
Despite having been in the public service, many still do not know much about Makinda.
Makinda, who is an accountant by profession trained, at the Morogoro-based Institute of Development Management (IDM), and joined active politics in 1975, at the age of 23 when she was nominated to parliament through the youth wing, becoming the youngest legislator of that time.
“Under the one party rule there was a system of having MPs from various party organs such as parents, women, co-operatives, universities and the youth. I got an opportunity to enter the legislature through the latter,” she said.
She had just completed studies and was employed by the Tanzania Audit Corporation (TAC).
“When I contested for the parliamentary seat I was still on probation at TAC. I graduated in June and joined the parliamentary race in October. When I won the seat I had two options of either becoming a full time MP or continuing with my employment at TAC as a state auditor. I chose to become a full time legislator,” she said. She opted for Bunge to avoid conflict of interest.
“The salary at TIC was many times higher than that of Bunge and my employment there was guaranteed for many more years than Bunge which was a 5-year tenure…but I decided to take my chances on Bunge,” she said.
Her decision was the right one. Bunge was where her future was.
This is her seventh consecutive term in the National Assembly where she has served as a back bencher, a Cabinet minister and as Deputy Speaker.
She has been a constituency MP (Njombe South) since 1995.
Given her tender age on joining parliament, Makinda said her obligation was to learn and work hard to justify her presence.
“I did not want people to start asking ‘What is this young girl doing here?’” she said.
Her determination worked as she turned to be one of the most active MPs.
She served as a backbencher for eight years till 1983 when she was appointed Minister of State in the Prime Minister and First Vice-President’s Office in charge of policy affairs, disaster management and co-ordination of government business in the National Assembly (Chief Whip).
Makinda says she became minister at a time when the country was faced with a lot of developmental challenges.
“We had the late Edward Sokoine as the Prime Minister then. The economic situation was very bad and it was really tough to get things moving,” she recalled.
Being a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of operations of the central government, I had a lot to do.
This is the time when my hair started greying. Most of us back then almost developed peptic ulcers,” she said.
She was at one time Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (Information and Broadcasting) before she was appointed founder Minister for Community Development, Women Affairs and Children, where she served from 1990-1995.
A big challenge at the Community Development ministry, she said, was to visualise how people can actively participate in bringing about their own development.
“We tried very hard to make people understand that they are the engine for their own development. The concept was to improve people’s lives through self-reliance. I liked the task,” she said hoping that the concept continues with the same speed.
Makinda was appointed Ruvuma Regional Commissioner in 1995, where she served till the year 2000.
This, she says, was the responsibility that she liked most because it put her in direct contact with the people.
“When you work with the people, you can make plans and implement them immediately, and get reactions immediately. When I was a minister there were some decisions I made which were not implemented at lower levels,” she said, adding that she also liked being a constituency MP, which gives her daily direct contact with her electorate.
“With my people we plan what to do and when to do it,” she said.
From the years 2000–2005, she served as the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Poverty alleviation.
She was also chairperson of Bunge, assisting the Speaker in the running of parliamentary sessions. In 2005 she was elected the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, becoming the first Tanzanian woman to hold that position.
Makinda is bold and visionary. She has made a turnaround in Njombe’s educational development.
When she became the MP for Njombe in 1995, the area had very poor educational infrastructure with very few primary schools and a limited number of secondary schools.
“Now we have sufficient primary schools and a secondary school in every ward…We have also done well in the provision of other social services including health and water supply,” she says.
She says a big challenge now is to ensure that the people are economically empowered.
“With weak economic power, we won’t be able to accomplish the other responsibilities. We have therefore to fight poverty,” she says. Makinda represents a constituency endowed with fertile land, good weather and hard working people.
“We don’t have a problem with manpower. People in Njombe are very good in agriculture. We work on the farms throughout a year. What we badly need is facilitation in terms of adequate and timely availability of farm inputs and at affordable prices,” she said.
Makinda has also served on many boards of companies as director, including the Tanzania Railways Corporation, the National Bank of Commerce, Texco, Legal Corporation, Tanesco, Mwatex, Mutex, Mbeya Tex, Engineers Registration Board and the Bora Shoes Company.
Makinda says she does not believe in getting favours or feel intimidated by men.
“I like to struggle. I believe I can always do what men can,” she said, adding, “I don’t have time to think that the people I am working with are men or women. What matters to me is doing my work as per the laid down rules and regulations.”
Makinda says she is irritated by the tendency by women to seek favours on the pretext of their gender.
“Many times women use emotions to show their capacity. That is not correct. We have to abide by rules and regulations governing our functions. Law does not discriminate against in terms of gender, age or position,” she says.
She is also of the opinion that women should not blame men for their underdevelopment but rather should address what men do that makes women seen incapable.
“There is no law that prevents women from showing their capability,” she said.
Once you are educated and you know your rights men and women become equal,” she said adding, however, that the situation is rather different for women who have not gone to school.
These, she says are pinned down by customs and traditions.
“That’s why we insist on educating the girl child. Because it is through education that women can be truly liberated,” she said.
But Ms Makinda’s leadership aptitude is rooted on her father, a renowned politician.
He retired in the early 1970s from his position as Regional Commissioner.
He was also an MP as at that time, since commissioners than were MPs by virtue of their positions.
On gender equality, Makinda said Tanzania has made majors steps is ahead of many countries.
“If we manage to bring to the House a Bill for 50-50 representation, we will be very far ahead of many,” she noted.
But she said being ahead of other countries is actually not a big deal, what matters is for the people to understand their roles and responsibilities.
She observed that women make up more than half the population but are still weak in many ways.
So the few in positions of influence, she said should work harder than men to compensate for their low representation.
“We should also support one another. Gone are the days of condemning one another. We have to stand together as one,” she said.
“The world is about fighting for our own rights. Let’s work with men and they will finally recognise us as their partners in development,” she said.