The Tanzanian political scene has this past week been dominated by a rare falling out between senior leaders – serving and retired – of the ruling party CCM, and the national commentariat is all agog over it.
The story is about a young Dar es Salaam-based self-styled “media activist,” who publishes a weekly tabloid to end all tabloids and regularly posts video clips and texts liberally pillorying those he accuses of undermining the “extraordinary efforts” of President John Magufuli.
In these posts, the man has had no qualms about naming people and claiming they are sabotaging Magufuli’s leadership, when it should be clear to all that the president has done more than any other before him, and that all should be supporting him.
He has often suggested that those he accuses are engaged in conspiracies to stop Magufuli’s bid to win a second term in 2020.
The people he has accused range from retired political leaders to media personalities and civil society activists.
Some of the individuals who have come to his unwanted attention have filed libel suits in courts of law (these include a former foreign minister), but others have brushed him off as a paid chatterbox whose rantings should not be dignified with a reply.
But now two of those who claim they have been unjustly treated by this pro-Magufuli “activist” have taken the unusual step of writing to a CCM organ comprising retired top leaders, including former presidents of the Union and Zanzibar, apparently seeking to get someone to restrain this rogue element who seems, they say, to enjoy the unqualified protection of someone very, very powerful.
The two, former secretaries-general of CCM, have stated in a letter made public that they would like to know who props up this man and what the intentions of those who send him are.
They also stated that before writing their complaint they had consulted with retired top leaders of both the Union and Zanzibar, which has caused people to surmise that former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete were privy to the letter before it was released.
This is unprecedented and the public is waiting with bated breath, especially because the suggestion in the complaint is that Magufuli himself, or someone very close to him, has been shielding this pseudo-journalist, for whatever political traction he may be providing.
He has been allowed to do his hatchet jobs without being reprimanded, not even by the government’s directorate of information, whose zeal in muzzling pretty tame media outlets with warnings, fines and bans contrasts sharply with its acquiescence in the most rabid personal attacks against the people this man has targeted.
It is interesting that the information police in that directorate have kept their tail firmly between their legs as far as this man’s transgressions are concerned.
So many questions have gone unanswered, and maybe now is the moment when the truth shall out.
Is this man and his gutter journalism at the service of Magufuli and his re-election come next year? Does the president need to enlist the services of individuals whose bellicose utterances remind those with a sense of history of the Nuremberg trials (for the German Nazis) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (for the génocidaires) in Arusha?
The two former secretaries-general have taken a move, and this may lead others to join in the effort to call the bluff of the presumptive “defender of the president,” when Magufuli, I would argue, clearly needs no defence provided by nutcases, or at least one would hope?
Unfortunately, the secretary to the Elders Council, to which the two appealed, Pius Msekwa, former speaker of parliament, has pleaded the impotence of that body, saying there was little it could do, but that the “accused” — meaning the two SGs — had the duty to clear their names, adding, strangely, something to the effect that “silence means consent.”
Strange, say I, because it is clear that the former speaker with a law degree knows nothing of the Miranda Rights– “you have the right to remain silent…” — although he has already decided that the two are watuhumiwa, the accused.
I suppose the public prosecutor is the young man “defending the president” against his multiple enemies, and our former speaker is telling the “accused” to defend themselves or be declared guilty, presumption of innocence be damned. Interesting times indeed.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]