RECENTLY some international media outlets have been portraying President John Magufuli as an autocratic leader, who among other things, has been silencing dissenting opinion.
Their arguments, by all standards, do not hold water and are erroneous on many fronts as they don’t appreciate what is really happening in the peaceful East African country of Tanzania. Many arguments advanced by such media outlets lack facts about President Magufuli.
Is Tanzania Democratic? Tanzania has long enjoyed a reputation for stability and its President Magufuli was elected democratically in 2015 where more than 10 political parties participated and several opposition candidates won Parliamentary seats including in the country’s commercial Capital City of Dar es Salaam.
Contrary to the un-researched claims advanced by western media, a 38 nation Pew Research has revealed the truth on the state of democracy in Tanzania.
The survey research conducted among 41,953 respondents in 38 countries from February 16 to May 8, 2017 across the world using telephone and face-to-face interviews found that 88 percent of Tanzanians are satisfied with the way democracy is working in the country under the leadership of President Magufuli.
“Trust in the national government is highest in Tanzania. About nine-in-ten people in Tanzania (89 percent) trust their government to do what is right for their country, including 48 percent who say they have “a lot” of trust,” states the research.
If this is not enough, The African Leadership Magazine nominated President Magufuli for the award of the Political Leadership for the year 2018. This was the second award after the Africa54 online Magazine named President Magufuli the second best African President for the year 2018 after the former President of Botswana Ian Khama.
President Magufuli will never and cannot turn Tanzania into an aristocracy. He has personally built a national unity by appointing opposition leaders in different position in his government.
Some of these are the former ACT–Wazalendo party national Chairperson who vied for the presidency in 2015, Ms Anna Mghwira who now serves as the Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner (RC) and Prof. Kitila Mkumbo, the former ACT Party Chief Advisor who serves as the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Water.
Is this democracy or autocracy? It should be noted that since 1992, Tanzania remains to be among the few countries in Africa that embraces and continues to enjoy peaceful multi-party democracy with respect to two limits in office.
The government of Tanzania under President Magufuli continues to uphold democratic principles, adhere to rule of law and continue to accelerate its anti- corruption agenda (which has created many enemies including some opposition politicians who were beneficiary to the corrupt system that denied many citizens their social rights now lamenting against the government).
On claims that Tanzania is taking some actions on dissenting opinion, this is entirely a fallacy as no journalist has been jailed or killed in Tanzania for publishing dissenting opinion (despite my personal belief that freedom to express views is not an opportunity to insult and ridicule other people).
The 2019 Reporters without Borders report is a testimonial to this. Tanzania is among few countries that has never killed or jailed a journalist in the last four years.
Furthermore, Tanzania has more than 230 newspapers, 160 radio and over 35 TV stations all of which have been registered by the government and ownership structures shows that more than 90 percent of them, are privately owned.
How can a country that rejects dissenting opinion allow that entire media to operate in the first place? Tanzania has taken some stern measures against some newspapers, like two or three of them, for publishing false stories which even the editors could not prove the facts.
According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, on its article 19, the media is obliged to observe certain ethos and laws, violation of which may attract sanctions. Such isolated cases cannot surmise the conclusion that the country is against press freedom.
The western media has again found itself supporting unfounded claims that Ebola-a deadly disease-has entered Tanzania and that the government has denied the existence of the disease in the country. The media outlets have gone an extra mile to claim that Tanzania has not furnished the World Health Organisation (WHO) with information on the disease.
This is pure lie! Can one hide Ebola? We must understand that Tanzania is an independent country that has ratified various international treaties.
The government through the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Ummy Mwalimu, clarified that the country did not send the clinical reports of two suspected Ebola cases which tested negative because under WHO Regulations Tanzania is not under any obligation to do so since the tests were negative.
Had she said the test results were positive the country could have been obliged to share information with WHO? Critically thinking it is absurd for any established media in the world to propagate lies about another independent country and contrary to the laid down rules.
On mining reforms the western media has come up with inaccurate arguments with claims that mining sector in the country has stalled. They cite Acacia Mining Company that handed its shares to Barrick Gold recently because of siphoning the country’s resources illegally and using previous bogus contracts.
International media ought to understand that like any other reform-driven leader, President Magufuli is pro-poor politician who is working hard to develop the country and drive its economy into a middle income status by 2025 through various reforms.
Contrary to western media’s demagogic portrayal of the President Magufuli’s reform in the mining sector, recent report by the Tanzanian Mining Commission proves that since 2017, and other prior reforms in the mineral wealth economy, the number of mining licenses requested by various investors, including foreign companies mainly from Australia, China and UK, were on the increase.
The truth is, like many other countries that strive to get rid of the chilling effect of the “resource curse”, Tanzania has lost billions of cash and missed opportunities for local industrialization due to the exportation of unprocessed minerals.
President Magufuli’s efforts are towards rescinding this arrangement Available evidence suggests one area where most mining companies cheated on actual sales and revenues, and many countries are spearheading reforms, is how to control exports and increase local benefits to increase local wealth.
These efforts are well captured on this UN published report: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/april-2009/mining-profit-africa%E2%80%99s-people. Commending the then reforms in Tanzania towards equitable distribution of mineral wealth, after years of lost opportunities, the report said: “Tanzania has made some progress in this area.
In the past, gold-and diamond-mining investors often received tax concessions lasting up to 20 years. So while mining accounted for nearly half of Tanzania’s exports, the total taxes paid by all the mining companies combined amounted to less than the tax paid by a single local company, Tanzania Breweries.
“To address the problem, Tanzania set up an 11-member committee of government officials, mining experts and civil society representatives to look at how to make mining contracts work better for all. The committee’s recommendations were used in renegotiating existing agreements.”
To be precise, available data for mining exports, between 2007 and 2016 from Tanzania, suggest that whereas the total value of exports was to the tune of 16 billion USD, government total revenues, cumulative of all taxes and levies, was a mere 1.8 billion USD.
The reforms made by Tanzania’s government in the 2017 laws and prior to that are meant to create a balance on benefits and create more job opportunities to Tanzanians thus contribute to social-economic wellbeing of the nation. Since then, local investment on smelting and beautification are on the rise.
It is shocking to see writers in western media advocating for the status quo; unfair distribution of income and job creation between foreign investors and the country, lack of win-win in the entire value chain and other unfair dealing in the industry.
The new arrangement in Tanzania seeks to realign this age long imbalance. In this sense Tanzania offers one of the best examples in managing mineral resources with a view to attain a win-win situation, but to some Western media that causes big problems to their owners and associates.
However, I would always think and expect a fair analysis from respectable news and professional international organizations that ought to professionally know that the 2017 new legislations are just a reinvigorated effort by the government of Tanzania towards equitable sharing of mining benefits, and ultimately, improve transparency and good governance in the sector.
I believe the Tanzanian reforms were fair, participatory and open enough for the industry to accept. It is no wonder that recent data reveals that from 2017 to March 2019, the Ministry of Minerals in Tanzania, through the Mining Commission, has approved over 7,320 new mining licenses and three large investors are waiting approvals to invest a staggering 300 million USD in the sector.
All these companies have, unequivocally, accepted the 16 percent Free Carried Interest as part of the conditions in their licenses. We have witnessed recent negotiation between the government of Tanzania and Barrick also leading to the inclusion of the same.
As a result after these reforms, whereas before President Magufuli took power the contribution of the mining sector to Tanzania’s economic growth was 0.2 percent between 1995 and 1999, increased only to 3.4 per cent between 2007 and 2008, but rose significantly to over 5 percent in 2017n with annual revenues more than doubled.
To conclude, the reforms happening in Tanzania are directed towards seeking to transform Tanzania as a nation whose mineral resources and other natural resources are beneficial and are contributing considerably towards poverty reduction.
In pursuit of these reforms, I understand some groups will come up against them as imperialists’ interests, including those of giant companies will be touched. By any measure, the task of carrying out these reforms is not going to be an easy one.
Dr Darius Mukiza is a lecturer at the University of Dar es salaam, School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC)