Reflections on President Samia’s initial performance

Reflections on President Samia’s initial performance

FROM the time President Samia Suluhu Hassan recently ascended to the Presidency, we have been constantly witnessing various sectors of Tanzania’s Public Service, as well as its Private Service, plus many other Organisations and Establishments expressing, through special advertisements placed in the print media, their congratulations and well wishes and expressing their full confidence in her capability to inherit the mantle of the country’s supreme power.

These expressions of confidence were repeated by Tanzania’s religious leaders of all denominations, when the world Christian community was commemorating the crucifixion, death, and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday; when these leaders additionally called on Tanzanians to earnestly pray for President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Hence, In today’s article, I will focus on this matter of former Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s peaceful ascendancy to the “throne”.

And, specifically, the constitutional lessons that should be learnt from this event; basically for the purpose of enhancing our readers’ general knowledge and understanding of these constitutional matters.

But before we get there, I wish to present an interesting narrative, regarding President Samia’s initial journey to the Vice Presidency of the United Republic, way back in 2015. How it actually came about.

The CCM Constitution duly establishes an “Advisory Council” consisting of all its former national Chair persons, and Vice Chair persons.

Because I myself had the opportunity of being elected CCM Vice Chairman in 2007, I thus became, upon retirement, a member of this distinguished Council and was, in addition, elected by my colleagues to be its Secretary.

Because of its advisory nature, this Council normally meets only when the need arises for their advice to be given, particularly in respect of some important policy matters.

Such important matters include CCM’s selection of the Presidential “ running mate”, during the relevant Presidential elections.

Thus, at the time of the Presidential election in 2015, the advice of this Council was required to be given; and our Advisory Council was accordingly convened for that purpose.

And that is when Presidential election candidate John Magufuli, disclosed to us his intention to propose the name of Samia Salum Hassan, for running mate.

Our Council was unanimous in endorsing that proposal, more specifically for the reason that Magufuli was making history by proposing, for the first time ever, the name of a woman for the position of Presidential “running mate”.

And that is precisely how President Samia’s journey to Ikulu commenced. And she worked diligently and faithfully with the late President John Pombe Magufuli, right up to the time of the sudden death of President Magufuli on 17th March, 2021; when, resulting entirely from the requirements of the Constitution itself, Samia became the President.

That is to say, no new election, or indeed any other action, was required to be taken to achieve this outcome. In constitutional parlance, this is described as assumption of office “by operation of the Constitution”.

And, after assuming that high office, President Samia Suluhu Hassan has, within less than a month, already demonstrated her immense capability, to manage the affairs of our country properly.

The Initial indicators of President Samia’s governance direction A well-known Kiswahili proverb says this : “Nyota njema huonekana asubuhi”.

This saying is totally applicable when assessing President Samia’s initial performance during the first few weeks of her Presidency.

The first indicator was her first cabinet reshuffle. In my humble view, the fact that she retained all the Magufuli appointed Ministers, seems to indicate that she intends to maintain her predecessor’s speed and tempo, in her governance performance.

But, only four days later, when she appointed the Permanent Secretaries and other heads of Public Organisations, the story was totally different.

Figuratively speaking, ‘she went fishing in the deep blue sea of the vast Public Service, and made her own catch’.

The fact that she re-appointed some of those who had been dropped by her predecessor; and fired some of the late President Magufuli’s lieutenants; seems to indicate that she is also determined to chart her own governance direction, with her own team of officials in the top Public Service positions.

Secondly, it will be remembered that at the ceremony of swearing in the Ministers following her first cabinet reshuffle, President Samia also made some weighty statements, through which she issued certain directives (which the Kiswahili print media figuratively referred to as “nyundo), including the following:- (i) To the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), which she directed to expand the tax base by increasing the number of tax payers; and, more specifically, to avoid the use of force in the collection of taxes, when she said the following:- “using large amounts of force in the collection of taxes, such as closing the tax payers’ bank accounts, or forcibly taking money from their accounts just because the law allows you to do so, is unacceptable”.

This statement appears to have persuaded even some international observers, to express their profound personal opinions; including the European Union (EU) Business Group Executive Director Cikay Richards, who said that “the President’s statement on the need for a friendly tax regime was very encouraging to the investors, and has exuded a lot of new hopes. For the taxman had been the major hurdle for a lot of businesses in Tanzania.

The President’s directive will rekindle investors’ hopes, and boost their confidence”. The President’s directive would appear to indicate that she, like her predecessor, intends to rely largely on obtaining her government revenues from the country’s own internal resources.

(ii) To the Prevention of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), which she instructed to immediately investigate the recent massive withdrawal of money (amounting to shillings 3.6 billion), from the Central Bank of Tanzania (BOT).

This directive would appear to indicate that she intends to maintain her predecessor’s supreme efforts in curbing the immoral theft, and plundering, of public funds with impunity.

Thus, in terms of the Kiswahili proverb quoted above, President Samia’s star (regarding the direction in which she will be moving), is already clearly visible, and shining brightly.

For she has displayed the kind of firmness, and determination, that many casual observers had probably not expected. But, on the other hand, she has fully satisfied the expectations of the majority of Tanzanians; who have been, either individually and collectively, expressing their full confidence in President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the sixth phase President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

She has clearly demonstrated that she can, and will, accomplish what is expected of her. The Constitutional lessons to be learnt from this event We promised, at the beginning of this article, to discuss constitutional lessons which should be learnt from this event of former Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s ascension to the country’s Presidency. Indeed, there are certain useful lessons which ought to be learnt from this event.

The first is the automaticity of the process itself. It should be noted that according to the country’s Constitution, in all cases where the need arises for the President’s functions and duties to be transferred to another person, on a temporary basis or upon the death of the incumbent President; such transfer shall take place automatically; that is to say, by operation of the Constitution itself.

But this was not always so, it only came about as a result of a court judgment in a constitutional case which the government had lost.

The particulars of that interesting case were, very briefly, that President Nyerere had travelled out of the country. In his absence, Vice President Aboud Jumbe had signed a “preventive detention Order”, authorising the ‘detention without trial’ of a certain individual. The Order was implemented.

However, through the normal legal process, the detainee challenged the said Order in the High Court; which held that the Vice President had acted illegally, for having taken such action without having the power to do so.

This was because the President had not signed the requisite instrument for the transfer of the power to detainee persons to the Vice President; which was then a requirement of the Constitution.

The government appealed against that decision, but the Appeal Court upheld the High Court’s decision. That is when the government legal pundits decided, that the Constitution should make provision for the automatic transfer of power and functions to the Vice President, whenever the President was out of the country temporarily; and also when the President died in office.

But despite the Constitution having this provision, such automatic transfer can still be frustrated; as happened in neighbouring Kenya when President Jomo Kenyata died suddenly in August 1978, and serious attempts were actually made by certain “tribal mafia” there, to prevent Vice President Daniel Arap Moi from becoming Kenya’s President.

Thus, in view of there being such criminal possibility; Tanzanians must fully appreciate our great good fortune in having achieved the recent uneventful, peaceful transfer of power, to President Samia Suluhu Hassan. The vital role, which was played by the ruling party (CCM) in connection therewith.

For, discreetly behind the scenes, the ruling party’s Central Committee was quietly organising, and effectively supervising, this constitutional ‘ power transfer ’ process.

The ruling party’s input must have made a huge contribution to the widely acknowledged success of this delicate exercise. It is indeed the case that in all properly functioning parliamentary democracies, political parties have a pivotal role to play in the relevant jurisdiction, by providing a stable base for the operations of the government of the day.

This is clearly evident, for example, in Great Britain (from where we inherited the parliamentary system of government that we are currently operating). In their case, ‘power transfers’ have always been peaceful, and totally uneventful.

It should therefore be appreciated, that even after the re-introduction of multi-party politics, the ruling party CCM has always been providing a stable base for the operations of its governments; a factor which accounts for all the peaceful power transitions from one phase to another that we have continuously witnessed; including this recent one to former Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, which had been caused by the sudden death of President John Pombe Magufuli.

It is, therefore, extremely important for Tanzanians to fully appreciate, and indeed to acknowledge, the crucial, and pivotal role, which has been played by the ruling party (CCM) in this respect, even over the past years. President Samia’s initial performance referred to above, offers sufficient credible evidence to prove that she ‘ has all it takes’ to be a successful President.

But, in one entirely unprecedented action, she has, in addition, introduced a totally new concept relating to the status of the Zanzibar President.

She did this through her action in sending Zanzibar President Hussein Ali Mwinyi to represent her at the SADC meeting taking place in Mozambique.

Such action is the first of its type in our long history, for it has never before been taken by any of her predecessors.

The particular significance of this action, is that it actually carries an important constitutional message, which is that the President of Zanzibar is, in fact, part and parcel of the Union government’s top leadership, and that the status of the President of Zanzibar is, in fact, much higher than the Union cabinet level, at which the Constitution places him (article 54 (1)).

piomsekwa@ gmail.com / 0754 767 576 .


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