Tanzania has threatened to disband an opposition-led municipal council if it continued to defy the government and maintain membership in a global initiative aimed at creating more open government.
President John Magufuli, has been accused by rights groups of cracking down on opposition. He denies the claims, saying his government respects democracy.
Tanzania’s fifth president, Dr. John Pombe Magufuli began to impress just days after his inauguration in 2015. He pulled funds intended for Independence Day celebrations and redirected them to anti-cholera operations. He began a shake-up of the Tanzania Port Authority, and the Tanzania Revenue Authority as he launched a tax collection drive. An audit of the public payroll led to a purge of “ghost workers”.
His victims have been mid- and low-ranking civil servants as well as high elites too. In May, he fired Minister of Energy and Minerals. Businessmen have found themselves in court, linked to a major corruption case. Facing confrontation with the President are also the multinational mining companies accused of stealing Tanzania’s resources for years. Based on these claims, the government charged Acacia Mining with fines and back-dated taxes amounting to $190 billion. Magufuli even threatened to nationalise the mines. His strategy of brinkmanship worked.
On October 19th, Acacia’s parent company Barrick Gold promised to find ways to further process copper-gold ores in Tanzania, instead of exporting them for smelting, and it made a number of pecuniary concessions.
But since early 2016, Magufuli is not just waging war on corruption — he is also declaring war on democracy. He has overseen numerous closures and suspensions of media outlets. His government has undermined judicial and parliamentary independence, implemented a partial ban on public rallies, harassed MPs, closure of online political space, and prosecuted critics under new defamation and sedition laws. Together, these constitute major infringements on the freedom of expression and the opposition’s ability to communicate with voters.