Tanzania's National Assembly Speaker Job Ndugai on Thursday bowed to growing pressure from within the ruling CCM party to resign.
This followed President Samia Suluhu Hassan's public rejection of his apology over recent remarks on the country’s borrowing.
The speaker on Monday apologised to the president for earlier saying that the country was in danger of being auctioned over its growing external debt burden.
In a press statement, Ndugai said he had already tendered a formal resignation letter to the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) secretary general, copied to the Clerk of the National Assembly, to allow for the process of installing a new Speaker to begin.
“This is a personal and voluntary decision and I have made it with the wider interests of the nation, government and my party (CCM) at heart,” he said in his three-paragraph statement written on Parliamentary Office headed paper.
The move comes on the back of mounting pressure from CCM lower-level leaders across the country throughout the week.
On December 27, at a public rally in his Kongwa constituency in Dodoma, Ndugai questioned the country’s continued borrowing from external sources, saying it is not sustainable. He suggested that the country should instead borrow internally.
On Monday this week, he apologised for the comments, saying they had been misinterpreted.
Ndugai said he had not intended to “disrespect” the Samia administration.
He also claimed that the video clip of his remarks, which went viral on social media triggering a huge political backlash, had been “smartly edited” to misinterpret his core message of less dependence on external borrowing.
He said people were trying to use social media to “create an agenda out of nothing and attack the current administration by dragging me as the Speaker into it.”
On Tuesday, President Samia seemed to refer to him when she slammed those criticising her administration’s focus on seeking external loans to pay for development projects instead of sourcing the funds locally by raising domestic taxes and expanding internal revenue streams.
President Samia said her government would not be discouraged from prioritising external loans over domestic taxes as the quickest way to complete key projects already on track such as the Standard Gauge Railway and Julius Nyerere Hydropower projects.
“There are people who thought these projects would ground to a halt so they would have something to say. That’s not going to happen. There is no country anywhere that doesn't borrow – even the so-called developed countries have bigger loan debts than ours. We will borrow, borrow and borrow in order to finish the projects we have started,” she said.
President Samia also stated categorically that she no longer trusted Ndugai as a political ally in the face of divisive factions coming to the fore within CCM well ahead of the next general election in 2025.
Amid the growing pressure from within CCM for Ndugai to resign following this latest statement from the president, a growing number of outsiders were also calling for his protection under the universal principle of separation of powers.
“Since Ndugai heads the Legislature, which is primarily responsible for maintaining checks and balances on the Executive arm of government, his resignation over this particular matter would be setting a bad precedent,” said Edmund Msangi, a seasoned journalist and political commentator.
Ndugai’s resignation sets the stage for legislators to vote in a new Speaker when parliament begins its first session of 2022 in the capital Dodoma on February 1.
The House is presently dominated by the ruling CCM party.