Tanzania and Africa witnessed a major historical event on 19th March 2021 with the swearing in of Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United Republic of Tanzania.
This followed the sudden death of former President John Pombe Magufuli.
President Samia Hassan’s elevation to the highest office in the land was done smoothly as per the Constitution which stipulates that upon demise of an incumbent the Vice President takes over the reigns of power until the next election.
In this case President Samia will be in-charge until the next Presidential and General Elections in late 2025.
She can, if she so wishes and her party endorses, seek a new mandate for a new five year period.
In a continent littered with up-heals in periods of transition (from political assassinations to military coups) this was an excellent reassurance to Tanzanians and the world at large that this country has come of age, is politically mature and has a cemented tradition of political stability, peace and security.
It is a great relief to foreign investors especially those with deep pockets that their investments would not fall prey to political earthquakes especially during elections or other political transitions.
This was the first time a lady was moving into “Plot Number one” as Zambians would put it.
Indeed other than Samia’s Vice Presidency no Tanzanian lady has held any other high executive office such as Prime Minister or Zanzibar President.
President Samia has sent a big message to Tanzanians and Africans that ladies have come of age. She is following the footsteps of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who governed post-civil war Liberia for ten years with such high performance record that she won a Noble Peace Prize.
After starting extremely well raising stakes on her crusade against corruption and misuse of public funds via a review of both the Reports of the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB).
She travelled to Kampala to sign contractual documents for the construction of the US$3.4bn Hoima-Tanga crude oil pipeline.
As President Museveni explained the justification for choosing the Tanzanian rather than the Kenyan route for the pipeline that was initially under consideration, I thought Mama Samia’s smooth rise illustrated the peace and tranquility that existed in Tanzania that would make the state and non-state signatories (the financing French and Chinese companies) comfortable that the pipeline like the Dar es Salaam-Ndola TAZAMA pipeline would operate without any undue stoppages or bursts out of political instability.
Given Uganda’s past history of coups and fascist military dictatorships, as President Samia inspected a guard of honour, I reflected on President Museveni’s explanation of why he appointed a lady Vice President Dr Specioza Kazibwe who served for ten years.
He said it was to make “men in uniform” realize as they saluted her that power springs not from the “barrel of the gun” but from the people. President Samia was helping to reinforce this thesis.
It boosted President Museveni and Uganda’s basis of elevation of ladies to powerful senior positions in including the Executive, Parliament and the ruling NRM party.
Since the Union in 1964 the government of the United Republic had until the incoming of President Samia Hassan been led by five men four of whom came from the Mainland.
It is opportune to have both a female and a Zanzibari as President. Ali Hassan Mwinyi (Zanzibar) who led Tanzania over 1985-1995 was the only one from the isles.
The younger generation might not have witnessed the Mwinyi Presidency and might associate the Tanzanian government with mainland Tanzania.
No wonder some Zanzibaris discuss United Republic of Tanzania government decisions as being made in the Mainland or worse still as made by Mainlanders forgetting that its leaders hail from both parts of the United Republic.
The ascendancy of President Samia Hassan, a Zanzibari, is a clear demonstration that the government is not led by Mainlanders but daughters and sons of the United Republic.
The position is neither reserved for men nor for Mainlanders. And just as President Hassan Mwinyi did she might inject into the government and the Tanzanian body politic new ideas from Zanzibar.
President Ali Hassan Mwinyi for example came with more liberal economic and political winds of change. Being a woman she might also be able to see issues from a different perspective.
This is already emerging as a fact in the management of both domestic and foreign policy. President Samia Hassan’s Presidency put to test a constitutional requirement introduced at the time of the adoption of a multi-party system in 1992.
A Committee of former Union and Zanzibar Attorneys General Mark Bomani and Wolfong Dourado examined the 1977 Constitution of the United Republic in order to recommend constitutional amendments in tune with the incoming multi-party democracy.
Hitherto if a Zanzibari was President as it was the case with Ali Hassan Mwinyi, the President of Zanzibar automatically also became Second Vice President of the Union. Likewise if a Mainlander was President, the Zanzibar President became First Vice President while the Prime Minister also became Second Vice President of the Union.
During the 10 year Presidency of HE Ali Hassan Mwinyi three Mainlanders (Joseph Warioba, John Malecela and Cleopa Msuya) became Vice President and Prime Ministers Given multi-party-ism a situation was foreseen where the Zanzibar President might be from a different political party from the Union President and therefore difficult to retain as Union Vice President unless there was a coalition government.
Furthermore there might be a possibility that a Zanzibar President elected only by islanders but also serving as Vice President of the Union might ascend to the Presidency in case of death or otherwise of the Union President without the person having being elected by Mainlanders.
The Bomani Committee therefore recommended and the State adopted the separation of the Zanzibar and Union Presidencies.
Borrowing from the USA Presidential running mate system, it recommended a Union Vice President elected alongside the Union President through a running mate system.
This is what transpired in the Tanzanian political system since 1995. Both in the 2015 and 2020 Presidential elections Ndugu Samia Hassan was the running mate to Dr John Magufuli.
But this constitutional amendment had not been put to test until the death of President Magufuli and the elevation of Vice President Samia to the Presidency.
There is in Dr Philip Mpango a Mainlander as Vice President. There is a Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa of the United Republic who no longer doubles up as Vice President.
The Zanzibar President is part of the Union government. He sits in the Cabinet as a Senior Minister. It has worked out smoothly.
• Prof NGILA MWASE is a policy analyst based in Dar-Es-Salaam (firstname.lastname@example.org)