A few basic dos, don’ts to learn and unlearn in post-Magufuli era

Thursday January 20 2022
Tanzania’s former Speaker Job Ndugai

Tanzania’s former Speaker of Parliament Job Ndugai. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


So now we find ourselves as a country in the post-Ndugai era, which should not be either over-celebrated or over-regretted. For, truth be said, former Speaker of Parliament Job Ndugai will enter history as a footnote, something in parenthesis that explains the real drama that has been taking place.

The former Speaker got to a point when he thought he had some power that in reality he did not possess.

He came to a place where he thought that he could rewrite the Constitution and create realities only he dreamed up. For instance, he threatened to take disciplinary (or other unspecified measures) against individuals he had absolutely no power over.

One principal criterion for membership of the Tanzania Parliament is that one must be a member of a registered political party.

Ndugai created a cluster of his own, of 19 women who had no party and whom he embraced as his personal legislators. And sure, his diktat stood: The women are still in parliament and drawing a salary to this day, illegal as they all are.

This man’s bravado held sway because it was never taken up by a potent enough force to challenge him.


These were the days of John Pombe Magufuli, where lawlessness was tolerated, even encouraged, as long as it served the political ends of the top dog.

That is how we got robbers and rapists such as Lengai ole Sabaya, a Magufuli official, to remain in office for so long, brutalising anyone suspected of being against Magufuli.

With the ascension of President Samia Suluhu, matters changed significantly, and we no longer witnessed the blatant lawlessness of yesteryear, though vestiges will of necessity linger around. For instance, the 19 women are still in Parliament, drawing a salary, though their patron has been laughed out of town.

It is that dramatic ouster that I need to dissect this week.

The immediate reason the Speaker was hounded out of his cherished seat is that he took a stand against President Samia’s borrowing and enlarging the country’s debt, something the Speaker thought would lead to the country being put under the hammer, so to speak.

The president reacted angrily, suggesting Ndugai’s criticism was disloyal, hinting that these were histrionics linked to what she termed the “2025 stress”. That is the next General Election year. Once the CCM habitual cheerleaders had smelled blood, they crawled out of the woodwork to attack the Speaker, demanding he resigns, which he meekly did, eating more than his share of humble pie, offering his profuse mea culpas, to no avail

I think both the Speaker and the president were wrong, the former for disowning his own words and the latter for taking the Speaker’s criticism as lese-majeste.

A parliamentary Speaker worth that name, should be able to stand up to defend his stance and if need be, challenge for a constitutional crisis, over which the courts would adjudicate. On the other hand, President Samia should not have come down so hard on a man who had turned his House into a team of cheerleaders, and was perhaps trying to somehow recover the authority he had himself eroded.

In the end, the Speaker will go down in history as having been useless, not for critiquing President Samia, but for not critiquing Magufuli before her, which in a way took away his licence to critique any president. When he critiqued her, he was rightly viewed as a spineless hypocrite.

Post-Magufuli, all of us will have to go into retraining, to remind ourselves of the basic dos and don’ts while unlearning the debilitating habits we learned under Magufuli:

-Ours is a republic, maybe limping and panting, but a republic nevertheless, that needs nurturing and strengthening, not weakening and subverting.

-The president is but a president, not a king. She or he can make mistakes, and they are often costly mistakes. To critique him or her is a sacred duty.

-If you are Speaker of parliament, your strength flows from the electorate, if indeed you and the other members were elected in accordance with the stipulated regulations.

-If you made yourself a poodle to the former head of state, don’t change abruptly and want to stand up to his/her successor lest you be seen as having personal issues with the new boss; remember what’s good for the goose is good for the gander

-Always examine your conscience to see if what you are doing and saying is right. If it is not, don’t do or say it, because conscience is a terrible nagger.

-The apparent power you wield is only temporal, and sometimes it is not even power, it is a mirage, especially if it is a reflection from the sun to the moon.

-Remember you will be judged in the court of public opinion, even if you can bribe all the judges in your municipal courts.

-Do not act as if to do politics you need to abandon all sense of decency. There are two types of politicians, the decent ones, and the scoundrels.

-Our people are appreciative: They reward you for doing good, even if you don’t hear them clapping for you.

- If you believe in God, then know He does not reside in State House.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]