With elections scheduled for October Tanzania is going to be one to watch this year. Incumbent President John Magufuli has made a big fanfare of his fight against corruption and his action on this score will no doubt be a central message in his upcoming campaign for re-election.
President Magufuli’s anti-corruption credentials have been boosted by efforts to root out civil service corruption. He has taken several measures in an attempt to cure the scourge. These include the convention of an economic crimes court, the sacking of six senior officials in the Tanzania Revenue Authority, the suspension of the Director General of the Tanzania Ports Authority, the dismissal of the long-standing Director General of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau, and the establishment of the Independent Office of Taxpayers Ombudsman. Just last week the President made great show of sacking the Minister of Home Affairs Kangi Lugola as a result of alleged fraudulent activities at the Ministry. He also dismissed the Commissioner General of the Tanzania Fire and Rescue Force Thobias Andengenye in connection with a dubious project worth an estimated $452 million.
President Magufuli’s efforts have seen Tanzania rise 21 places in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index since his election in 2015.
However, his efforts have proved divisive, with some accusing him of using his anti-corruption stance as cover to restrict freedoms and crackdown on opposition. Critics of the Government have also pointed to findings by Afrobarometer that 71 per cent of Tanzanians fear retaliation for reporting corruption to the authorities. According to opposition figure Zitto Kabwe “We are told that this administration is fighting corruption, yet the same administration resists all forms of transparency and passes laws to ensure it can continue conducting its business in the dark.”
In 2018 a report by the country’s Controller and Auditor General Mussa Assad revealed $640 million in missing funds. However, the ruling party appeared to block its release. Assad was subsequently removed from office. Commenting on his dismissal Kabwe claimed he was unconstitutionally removed from office “because he refused to be controlled and continued to expose the unaccounted-for loss of public funds.”
The lack of objective information and data makes a comprehensive and accurate summary of the progress made over the past five years difficult. As a result, questions remain as to how equally and impartially the law is being applied.
There is also concern that the upcoming election itself will be a source of corruption. After all, in the 2019 local elections the opposition boycotted the polls over allegations of government manipulation following a mass rejection of candidates. According to Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe 94 per cent of the party’s candidates were disqualified, while 90 per cent of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s (CCM) candidates were approved.
The hope is that President Magufuli will continue to take great strides to clean up corruption in a bid to boost his popularity ahead of the polls. However, it remains a concern that media and civil society are increasingly restricted when it comes to providing scrutiny of government actions.