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Shifting the seat of government to Dodoma: One more of Mwalimu Nyerere’s dreams come true

FOLLOWING President John Magufuli’s announcement in July 2016, of his commitment to relocate all the Ministries to Dodoma before the end of his first five-year term in office, that is to say, before the midterm Presidential elections of October, 2020; the process of implementing his ‘intention’ (read directive), is now manifestly ‘ in full swing’.

There must be many factors which have facilitated the achievement of this unprecedented success; but the leading such factor, is the courage and determination of President John Magufuli himself; fully supported by all the relevant stake holders, including the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation, which issued a statement published in the ‘Daily News’ of July 28th, 2016, which read as follows: “The Private Sector sees the Government’s intention to shift to Dodoma as a new business opportunity, because a lot of new investments will be required to meet the demands of the increased population”.

On his part, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa made the commitment that he himself would shift to the new capital, Dodoma, in September 2016; and directed all the Ministers to follow suit.

As the ‘God of good fortune’ would have it, all this has happened, exactly as promised, without fail. Mwalimu Nyerere’s long-term dream has indeed come true, at long last!

Mwalimu Nyerere and the ‘ Shift to Dodoma’ project Here is the full story. It all started in 1966,when Joseph Nyerere (MP), younger brother of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, asked for, and was granted, permission by the Speaker to introduce a ‘Private Member’s Motion’ in the National Assembly, calling for the relocation of the seat of Government from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma.

His request was granted, and the relevant motion was moved and duly debated in the National Assembly. But when the time came for the Government side to express its views on the matter, Hon. Paul Bomani, the Minister for Finance, warned the House about the high costs involved in implementing such a project.

Sensing that the Minister’s comments would most likely lead to the defeat of his motion, Hon. Joseph Nyerere prudently chose to withdraw his motion, citing the military wisdom of “he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day”.

In other words, Hon. Joseph Nyerere did not want the issue to be finally determined at that stage, but to be left open for another attempt to be made later.

It is not clear whether this clever strategy of keeping the issue alive was designed by Mr. Joseph Nyerere alone, or with the help of his elder brother, Mwalimu Nyerere.

But judging from the events which followed later, when Mwalimu Nyerere himself took personal charge in getting this seemingly difficult decision made by the ruling Party (TANU); one is tempted to believe that this strategy was crafted by Mwalimu Nyerere himself, and only given as an ‘ idea’ to his brother Joseph.

The ‘shift to Dodoma’ decision was made by TANU Having thus failed to pass the motion through Parliament on account of the said ‘budget concerns’; this project was subsequently strategically re-located to the ruling party (TANU), where such ‘budget concerns’ would not be a hindrance, because it would be easily explained that funding was a concern of the Government, not of the Party; and possibly further that once a decision had been made by the Party, which was supreme, the Government would just be directed to implement it.

The relevant Party process started rather discreetly when, in April 1972, the Mwanza Regional Working Committee of the Party (TANU), reactivated the matter of shifting the Government Capital to Dodoma by quietly passing a resolution to that effect, and recommending to the Party’s Central Committee that this matter be urgently taken up and be finally determined by the Party’s National Executive Committee.

It is from that time onwards, that Mwalimu Nyerere’s great interest, and influence, in having this matter determined appropriately, became obvious and manifest.

As President of TANU, he made sure that the recommendation from Mwanza was fast tracked through the Party’s Central Committee and the National Executive Committee; where it was decided that the matter of shifting the Government Capital to Dodoma was of such great importance, that it should be referred to all Branches of the Party for their consideration and advice, before a final decision is made.

This was to be a kind of Party referendum.

All the Party Branches were given twelve months within which to carry out this exercise; each Branch being given the freedom to select its own convenient time for doing so.

The party records show that altogether, a total of 1,859 TANU Branches participated. Of these, 842 Branches opposed the proposal to shift the Capital to Dodoma, while 1,017 Branches supported the proposal.

The National Executive Committee met again during August 1973, to receive these results; whereupon it made a final decision, in the form of the following resolution: “The National Executive Committee hereby resolves that the seat of Government be shifted to Dodoma, and further that the move be completed within a period of ten years . . .

This decision is final, and the Government is hereby directed to take immediate action for its implementation”. Having thus been given the green light, President Nyerere swung energetically into action.

On 24th September, 1973, TANU’s then bi-annual National Conference was held. In the course of his opening speech at that Conference, Mwalimu Nyerere made the following authoritative statement: “I would like to take this opportunity to complete an assignment which was given to me by the National Executive Committee at its recent meeting here in Dar es Salaam.

Among the issues which were discussed at that meeting, was the question of whether or not the Government Capital should be shifted from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma.

The National Executive Committee made a final decision on this matter, and asked me to announce it. I will now do precisely that, and I seek the indulgence of NEC for not having done so earlier”.

On the face of it, this was merely information to that meeting, since NEC had taken the final decision. The implementation of that decision by the Government started immediately.

On 6th October, 1973, President Nyerere, by order published in the Government Gazette, established a new Ministerial portfolio, the Ministry of Capital Development (MCD).

Furthermore, by Government Notice (GN) no 230 published on 12th October, 1973; the President also established the Capital Development Authority (CDA), as the Government’s implementing Agency. It was estimated that the whole project would cost about Tshs 3 billion, to be spent over a period of ten years.

With great enthusiasm, the ruling TANU party was ordered to shift immediately to Dodoma, in order to show a good example for the Government to emulate. So far, so good.

On the part of the Government however, what followed thereafter, and for the next 43 years, is a rather sad story; relating to the huge, but effectively wasted efforts, which were so enthusiastically invested by President Mwalimu Nyerere into making this ‘ shift-to-Dodoma’ project a success; plus the accompanying frustrations and disappointments which tormented his mind, as a result of this failure to achieve his cherished objective.

The primary cause of this failure, and the accompanying frustrations, was no other than the cruel circumstances, that abruptly emerged at the time. For it was only four years later, in 1977/78, when actual disaster struck.

This came in the form of three severe, and totally unexpected occurrences, which produced an immense negative impact on the Government budget.

These were; (i) the collapse of the East African Community; (ii) the sudden sharp rise in the world’s oil prices; and (iii) the war against the invading forces of President Iddi Amin Dada of Uganda. To these major disabling factors, may also be added the minor factor of total dependence on the Government budget alone, for the implementation of this whole project.

As we have already seen above, ‘budget concerns’ are what derailed the project during its earlier consideration in the National Assembly in 1966.

The same ‘budget concerns’ are actually what accounts for the failure to implement the shift to Dodoma project for the last 43 years, and also accounts for Mwalimu Nyerere’s disappointments and frustrations at this failure.

The three severe intruding factors mentioned above, completely overturned all the budget plans relating to the shift to Dodoma, to the extent that this grand move had to be put in abeyance.

It may also be worth mentioning that Mwalimu Nyerere’s enthusiasm for the shift to Dodoma, was partly based on his socialist vision. For him, relocating the seat of Government to Dodoma was an important step towards the realization of his cherished Ujamaa policy.

For he felt strongly that with the Government being located in Dodoma, which is in the center of the country, would substantially benefit the vast majority of the peasants who were living in that least developed region of the country.

This is also supported by his decision the Dodoma Ikulu should be located in Chamwino Village, right in the middle the rural peasants.

The failed attempts to involve the Private Sector Subsequently, under President Ally Hassan Mwinyi, a bold attempt was made to involve the active participation of Private Sector in the shift –to-Dodoma Government project when, in February 1989, Parliament enacted a special law for that purpose; cited as the “Dodoma Special Investment Area Act” (no.7) of 1989.

This law, which declared the whole of the Dodoma Capital Development Area to be ‘a special investment area’, made extremely generous provisions for the remission of a number of Government taxes, to those investors who would come forward to invest the Dodoma Capital Development Area.

Such remissions included the remission of the whole of the Customs duties payable on specified products, imported or purchased locally from bonded warehouses prior to clearance through customs; remission of the whole of the Income Tax payable by any person who may set up a specified industry or small scale industry in Dodoma, for certain specified periods; and the remission of Sales Tax in respect of specified products imported or purchased for investment in Dodoma.

The relevant products which were granted these Tax remissions were specified in the Appendices to that law, were mainly building materials such as cement; kiln and quarry products; Iron and steel products; Electrical items; Pipes and pipe fittings; Bitumen, paints and oils; Roofing and ceiling materials; Glass products; and Timber and timber products.

In addition, the said law also provided remissions of 50 percent of the charges in respect of electricity consumed by every specified industry which was to be established in the Dodoma Capital Development Area; as well as remissions of 50 percent of the charges payable in respect of water consumed by every specified industry established in the Dodoma Capital Development Area.

These were indeed very generous offers to investors. But, alas, they appear not to have created any increased enthusiasm for investment in Dodoma.

This was probably due to the impression which had unfortunately been created, that the Government itself was not keen on shifting to Dodoma!

President John Magufuli’s enthusiasm and success in carrying out the ‘shift to Dodoma’ project, effectively makes one of Mwalimu Nyerere’s cherished dream come true. The other is the mammoth ‘Stigler’s Gorge’ project, whose enthusiastic construction has also started.

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