From Exile to Election: Old Foes Clash in Tanzanian Presidential Race

From Exile to Election: Old Foes Clash in Tanzanian Presidential Race

Tanzania’s incumbent president John Magufuli is facing a tough opponent in his upcoming re-election bid on Oct. 28 — literally.

Chadema MP Tundu Lissu survived 16 gunshot wounds in an unsolved assassination attempt outside his Dodoma residence in 2017 and has spent the past three years living in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

Lissu, the former president of Tanzania’s bar association, the Tanganyika Law Society, returned home in June to announce his intention to run against Magufuli, who was elected under the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party banner in 2015 after promising to crack down on corruption and improve infrastructure in the East African country.

 

The prominent lawyer, who has long been a thorn in Magufuli’s side and has been arrested multiple times on charges ranging from insulting the president to disturbing public order, said Tanzanians deserve a change from the long-ruling CCM.

“Our biggest problem in Tanzania is our politics, our constitution and the poor leadership that has existed for a year and if we want to make a change that is desperately needed by Tanzanians, then the answer is not promising the same things that we’ve had for more than 70 years,” said Lissu.

His final arrest came one month before the attempted assassination after Lissu revealed that Canada had impounded a plane bought for national carrier Air Tanzania because of a financial claim against the Tanzania government.

Chadema party chairman Freeman Mbowe, who was sent to hospital with a broken leg after being beaten by unknown assailants the day after Lissu announced his candidacy, said his party seeks to unite the country.

“Magufuli’s government thrives on the oppression that is why we are calling people of Tanzania to stand to show up in large numbers on October 28,” said Mbowe. “We want to formulate a system that will work for us and Chama Cha Mapinduzi. We have no intention of revenging.”

As in neighboring Kenya, Tanzania’s federal government consists of the president and the National Assembly. The president is elected by direct popular vote every five years and is eligible to run for a second term.

Magufuli is a polarizing figure for many Tanzanian voters. He has been accused of clamping down on the opposition, gagging the media and forcing his way on citizens while also being celebrated for prioritizing industrialization and job creation through the private sector.

“Magufuli is loved and hated at the same time,” said Dodoma resident Kabadi Chule. “In 2015 people thought he was the saviour only to be disappointed by the impunity under his watch.”

Fatma Karume, a human rights activist from Dar es Salaam, is concerned about the integrity of the upcoming election.

“The shopping list of hard work bought by the laws to be paid for by taxpayers cannot justify the destruction of fundamental principles such as breaching of our constitution by creating impunity for the president, vice-president, chief justice and the speaker contrary to the constitution by destroying the independence of the judiciary and parliament,” said Karume. “In five years, Magufuli has managed to unconstitutionally re-engineer our society in ways that many of us never imagined possible and ultimately it will be for the voters to decide in October if their votes are properly counted by an electoral commission whose independence is questionable.”

For many voters, the biggest consideration may be how it affects their personal finances. Despite its richness in natural resources and having a burgeoning tourism sector before the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, most Tanzanians live in poverty and are dependent on subsistence agriculture.

Since Magufuli took office as well as under his predecessor, Tanzania has seen relatively high annual economic growth, averaging 6 to 7 percent a year, according to a 2019 World Bank report. While the poverty rate in the country has gone down, the absolute number of poor citizens has not thanks to the high population growth rate.

“Tanzania has been growing very rapidly for several years,” said Aly-Khan Satchu, the CEO of Rich Management Limited, an East African investment advisory company. “Over the past fifteen years it has been growing with over seven per cent, it’s quite unusual to have countries to have such a prolonged economic growth. I hope it continues. The sources are many: one is population growth that is growing with two per cent [and] the growth is very broad-based many sectors account for it. There is a story of transformation away from agriculture into many sectors such as manufacturing of mattress and food processing.”

But not all Tanzanians are benefiting from this economic growth, according to fish trader Stefano Furuka.

“As much as the president has cracked down on corruption, we small-scale farmers have nowhere to take their products because Chinese investors have grabbed everything,” said Furuka.

(Edited by Andrew Fleming and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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Angry Botswana citizens decry government’s economic policies

Angry Botswana citizens decry government’s economic policies

FRANCISTOWN, Botswana—Botswana is one of Africa’s veritable economic and human development success stories.

It made the transition from the United Nations classification of Least Developed Country, with few paved roads and health facilities at the time of its independence in 1966, to a Middle Income Country inside of three decades, thanks to the diamond industry and wildlife tourism.

But the current economy is not all rosy, and the government of late has received some criticism.

Critics of the current administration under the leadership of President Mokgweetsi Masisi argue Botswana is slowly but surely losing its tag of being the shining beacon of democracy in Africa.

Biggie Butale, the leader of Botswana Patriotic Front, an opposition party formed a few months before the country’s general election held in October 2019, said the present leadership is failing to avoid “resource curse.”

“We are seeing a rise in the country’s wealth being squandered by those holding top positions within the government,” said Butale. He said it is now becoming difficult to differentiate Botswana and any other “corrupt African country. The squandering of mineral wealth in Botswana is as good as what is happening in Nigeria and elsewhere. But that has not been the norm in yesteryears. Corruption is rising, and democracy is waning,” said the former legislator.

Butale, who lost his seat to a ruling Botswana Democratic Party candidate in last year’s election, accused Masisi and his administration of rigging the polls, though the BDP’s win may just have been an issue of votes among challenging parties splitting the opposition vote.

Mokgweetsi E.K. Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana. (UNCTAD Photo/Jean Marc Ferré)

Butale is not the only critic, however. Kgosietsile Ngakaagae, an independent attorney based in Gaborone, the country’s capital city, recently recorded a short video accusing the government of enacting economic policies that prevent locals from active participation. Ngakaagae posted the video on social media platform Whatsapp—and it went viral.

A couple of weeks earlier, popular rapper Atlasaone Molemogi, known as ATI, recorded a short video of himself in front of a car sales garage owned by an auto magnate of Indian origin. In the video, shared widely on Facebook and Whatsapp, Molemogi charged the government with placing the country’s economic might in the hands of expatriates at the expense of locals, as many big businesses in the country are foreign-owned. “It has to stop like now,” Molemogi says in the video.

“Social media has provided an alternative voice for many locals to reach out to the leadership when mainstream media has failed,” said Tachilisa Balule, an associate professor of law at the University of Botswana.

The government has denied allegations of prioritizing expatriates at the expense of locals. In a recent televised speech, Masisi said his government is working tirelessly to ensure local people are full participants in the local economy, not spectators.

Expatriates legally operating businesses in Botswana must be protected and respected, he said. Masisi further pleaded with locals not to use derogatory words when referring to expatriates because it is not “our culture.”

The corruption claims are exacerbated by high unemployment.

Unemployment rates hit more than 23 percent at the end of the first quarter in a country with an estimated population of above 2.3 million, according to Statistics Botswana. Little progress has been made on diversifying the country’s economy away from diamonds and tourism, Balule said.

“A combination of unemployment and rising corruption incidents has angered the majority of local, especially the youths, hence, turning to social media to vent,” said Balule, and the government has to devise a strategy to avoid a total collapse of economy and democracy.

Balule said the proposed bill that will bar members of parliament from crossing the floor (changing parties) once elected into the House of Assembly is a clear indication the BDP-led government is becoming undemocratic. In essence, it could be seen as trying to prevent any loss from its own ranks, as the constitution protects people’s rights to political opinion.

“If the bill passes into law, then it will be clear the Masisi administration is trampling onto the freedom of association of an individual,” said Balule.

(Edited by Fern Siegel and Cathy Jones)

 



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Kenya Copes With Decades of Police Brutality

Kenya Copes With Decades of Police Brutality

In America, one incident of police brutality captured on video in May sparked global protests and may have finally galvanized calls for police reform. In Kenya, things are very different.

Young Kenyans lose their lives frequently, sometimes weekly, especially those from informal settlements, due to excessive force by the police.

Unlike many countries, violence has heightened over the years due to nepotism, tribalism and ethnic politics.

Thirteen-year-old Yassin Moyo was on his parents’ balcony March 30 when a “stray bullet” hit him. 

“It was about 7 p.m., and I was in the house,” said Hassan Motte, Yassin Moyo’s still-grieving father. “My kids were on the balcony. The police were doing their normal checkup (enforcing curfew due to the coronavirus pandemic). After a few minutes, I heard gunshots. I told my kids to lie down, only for Yassin to tell me he was shot. He was bleeding.  

“We immediately took him to the hospital, only for Yassin to die (in) a few hours,” his father said. “When we arrived, no doctor was available to attend to him. It’s very sad. We took his body and buried Yassin Moyo the following day.”

‘The death of my son has changed my life and how I view the government. I mean, they are supposed to protect us, not to kill innocent Kenyans. Even though I know the police officer who killed my son, I am sure there will be no justice because the police are believed to be above the law.”

Moyo’s killing sparked a reaction from Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta, who apologized. While killings have not completely stopped, the officer involved in Moyo’s death was expected to face charges.

Michael Maina, a motorcycle rider, said he was lucky to survive after his March 21 encounter with a police unit.

“I was on my way home when seven police officers dressed in casual wear pounced on me. I tried to explain that I was a motorcycle taxi rider, but they didn’t listen. I had carried a client actually whom we happened to live in the same neighborhood. One of them hit me with a piece of wood that had nails on it. I fell, and it is through this incident that I lost my right eye,” said Maina.

Advocates say the use of force and police killings in Kenya results from corruption, poor accountability and a poor recruitment process. 

Historically, governments have used the police to enforce their political agenda. Under the British Colonial government, the major role of the police was to guard the interest of the administration, not to serve the general public. Post-independence, political leaders continued the practice. To qualify for the police force in Kenya, candidates need to be between 18 and 28, with a GPA of 1.3, though short stature may be used as an unofficial disqualifying criterion for many.

Kenya’s founding father, the late Jomo Kenyatta, used the police force to push his agenda, grabbing land and killing his political opponents.

Just like his successor, Daniel Arap Moi used police as a tool for repression and assassination as well as detention and torture of his political opponents.

Current President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family has been accused of using police force to evict people from their land.
 
“Early in the 1960s, life was difficult,” said Gitu wa Kahengeri, a veteran of the Mau Mau uprising that led to Kenya’s independence. “I was beaten until I couldn’t feel pain anymore. The same is happening right now to Kenyans who choose to speak up against injustice, challenge politicians. It’s like we are back to the old days.”

Anne Marie Okutoyi, a commissioner at Kenya National Commission for Human Rights, emphasizes government listening to its people and politicians accepting election results rather than forcing their way.

“We have a long way to go, especially in our country. We didn’t learn from post-election violence in 2008, where two tribes, the Kikuyu and Luos were fighting for power. Kenyans lost their lives; this happens when elections are near. Even now you can see politicians creating tension as we gear up for elections in 2022,” said  Okutoyi. 

Of Kenya’s four presidents since 1963, three are from the Kikuyu tribe.

Parallel with the police violence, Nyarari wa Mumbi, a human rights activist from Kayole-Soweto, explained how politicians recruit young people in the slums to create chaos for money.

“People here are promised $2 to create violence in the country. Many people here are jobless, so they will do anything to get money. Politicians are using youths to create tensions,” said wa Mumbi.

While calls for police and governmental reform may find receptive ears in many nations, Kenya is not likely to be one anytime soon.

As Gitu wa Kahengeri said: “Under the former presidents, Kenyans were not supposed to say anything about the regime. If you did, you will be dead by the time you finish your sentence. Despite gaining independence, nothing has changed. Kenyans are still massacred in their country, courtesy of power-driven politicians. Others are forced to flee to safer places, especially during the election period.” 

(Edited by Robert George and Cathy Jones.)



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Ecologists blast government over Mauritius oil spill

Ecologists blast government over Mauritius oil spill

A delayed governmental response to a Japanese oil tanker running aground late last month off the island of Mauritius has helped created a spill that’s becoming “an ecological catastrophe of massive proportions,” a Greenpeace representative tells Zenger News.

Sunil Dowarkasing, a native of the east African island nation, says the unresponsiveness of the oil tanker’s owner also contributed to the disaster, which took a major turn for the worse on Aug. 6, when leakage from the vessel, the MV Wakashio, became visible in the lagoon where it had run aground.

“The government took too much time to respond to this incident,” says Dowarkasing. “As soon as the ship wrecked, the government should have begun taking precautions [against a spill] and we would never have been in such a situation.”

He also blasted the vessel’s owner, Nagashiki Shipping. “That Japanese company had only one thing in mind, to save their ship, but our government has to save its lagoon. But they didn’t think about that. They were just relying on what the Japanese were saying.”

While the government and the vessel’s owner mainly stayed on the sidelines in the immediate aftermath of the grounding, Dowarkasing says locals did try to minimize damage to the lagoon and nearby shore by installing protective booms that would sop up at least some of the leaked oil.

Locals have been making homemade booms in a bid to mitigate the devastating oil slick, which has even reached the mainland’s mangroves. (Sunil Dowarkasing/Newsflash)

 

Homemade booms on the water. (Sunil Dowarkasing/Newsflash)

 

Men work on the water. (Sunil Dowarkasing/Newsflash)

The government defends its actions related to the spill. In a statement released on Aug. 13, officials said they are “taking all the necessary measures to prevent another oil spill from the bulk carrier, MV Wakashio, and 3,184 tons of fuel oil have already been pumped [from it].”

It added that according to Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, there is no trace of fuel oil on such surrounding islands as Ilot Mangenie and Ile aux Cerfs. Some environmental groups disagree with that assessment.

The head of the government also said “an investigation into MV Wakashio is already underway to determine the cause of the grounding. The investigation will soon be concluded and followed by the necessary actions.”

Greenpeace’s Dowarkasing, meanwhile, said there is some good news: Thanks mainly to the efforts of locals, 445 metric ton of oil had been collected from the lagoon itself as of the day before, plus 90 metric tons of sludge.

“But there is still between 300 to 500 metric tons around, either floating or deposited on the shoreline,” he says. “The biggest problem now is that this oil is spreading. When that happens, it becomes thinner and will sink … This is where it becomes more dangerous to our marine ecosystems.”

He said that in addition to impacting the life cycles of a variety of marine life, the spill will likely affect the coral within the lagoon, as well as mangroves on the nearby shore.

Seconding Dowarkasing’s alarm over potential harm from the spill is Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, who says he and his colleagues are in a race against time to protect critically endangered species from the mishap.

A view of the water. (Sunil Dowarkasing/Newsflash)

 

Men working along the water. (Sunil Dowarkasing/Newsflash)

 

A view of the water. (Sunil Dowarkasing/Newsflash)

Tatayah said that the MWF had spent “nearly 40 years working on these islands and restoring these islands and [the spill] is heartbreaking to the hundreds of people that have worked, most of the time volunteered, months and years of their lives to restore these species and these ecosystems.”

Among the steps MWF has taken so far to help protect species potentially impacted by the spill is to rescue some members of such endangered species as olive white eyes birds and fodies birds, and moved some endangered plants away from the beach.

Further complicating such clean-up efforts are several external factors that can’t be controlled, Greenpeach’s Dowarkasing notes. “If there’s a change in the wind, for example, there will obviously be a change in the direction of the waves,” he says. “There will also be a change in the direction of the current. So these three factors will eventually spread it.”

Beyond that, Dowarkasing is also concerned that a man-made action – the government’s possible use of detergents to break up the spill — will turn into “another catastrophe.” “When using such detergents, you’re not removing the oil, you’re simply breaking it into smaller pieces, which will sink on the land and in the ocean.” It could not be immediately determined if the government planned to take such a step.

Mauritius, with a population of just under 1.3 million, has become a popular spot for eco-tourism in recent decades, thanks to such unique wildlife as Telfair skinks and day geckos. Tatayah and others worry that the destination’s popularity with such visitors could take a hit from the spill.

For all the potential damage the Mauritius spill might do locally, at a total of about 4,000 tons of fuel on board the MV Wakashio, it’s still relatively small when compared to such disasters as the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in 2010, which released an estimated 420,000 tons of fuel into the Gulf of Mexico, and the 37,000 tons of oil that were spilled into Prince William Sound off Alaska by the wreck of Exxon-Valdez tanker in 1989.

(Edited by Matthew Hall and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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Zimbabwe labor union blasts Chinese employers in wake of worker shooting

Zimbabwe labor union blasts Chinese employers in wake of worker shooting

HARARE, Zimbabwe—Zimbabwe’s top labor union is complaining that Chinese employers in the southern African country flout labor laws, with employees being assaulted, harassed, denied wages and forced to work in unsafe conditions.

Peter Mutasa, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union, said workers employed by Chinese companies have long complained about unfair labor practices and health and safety hazards and threatened lawsuits, protests and strikes to protect workers.

“Most Chinese employers are a menace to the workers of Zimbabwe,” Mutasa said. “We have been receiving many reports of abuse. Some complain about physical abuse such as assault, sexual harassment, being forced to eat unfamiliar food in canteens. Workers are forced to work long hours, no protective equipment and clothing, no health breaks and in other cases no mandatory weekly rest.”

Mutasa said that many workers, who earn less than $100 a month on average, are also victims of wage theft from employers who fail to pay minimum wages or overtime.

“Generally, workers face serious injustices under the majority of Chinese employers,” Mutasa said.

Mutasa said the union has engaged the government and the Chinese embassy “to no avail.”

“This simply shows that Chinese employers are overly protected by the government, hence their disregard of labor laws,” Mutasa said. “In most instances, trade union officials are not allowed access in the workplaces. When allowed, Chinese employers at times pretend they cannot speak English, and there becomes communication breakdown.”

One Chinese employer, Zhang Xuen, is facing attempted murder charges for shooting two local workers last month during a dispute over outstanding wages.

Paul Mavima, Zimbabwe’s minister of labor, said the government’s official position is that Chinese employers should abide by the labor laws of the country.

“We said that there is no preferential treatment of any employer. Every employer should abide by the labor laws and should treat their workers decently,” Mavima said. “In fact where the public sees [violations], they should report it; no one, no sacred cows at all.”

Zhao Baogang, the deputy ambassador of the Chinese Embassy in Harare, declined to comment on the telephone about alleged abuses by Chinese employers. However, in a terse statement last month, the Chinese Embassy did address the shooting of the two employees in central Zimbabwe: “Any possible illegal acts and persons should not be shielded. China and Zimbabwe have long-standing friendship and cooperation. We call upon all relevant sides to safeguard it jealously and carefully.”

Chinese investments in Zimbabwe run into billions of dollars, with Beijing operating projects in construction, mining, electricity and agricultural sectors.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is battling an economic and political crisis with high inflation of over 800 percent, high unemployment of over 80 percent and lack of investment. Mnangagwa, who took over from long-ruling Robert Mugabe in a military coup in 2017, is facing dissent from civic and opposition activists, many of whom have been arrested and charged with trying to overthrow the government.

John Robertson, an economist in Harare, said many Chinese employers in Zimbabwe operate with impunity because China has done so much to assist the country since the liberation struggle.

“I think whatever the rules, they don’t apply to the Chinese,” Robertson told Zenger News. “They feel they don’t have to obey the rules because [they think], ‘We are who we are and we are owed so much by this government.’ The problem stems from there.”

He said the Chinese also appear to be given special treatment when they apply for permits.

“The government of Zimbabwe is at fault for not enforcing things in the past,” Robertson said. “The Chinese follow different rules … and basically what they are saying to the government is, ‘What do you plan to do about it?’ Because government, so far, has done nothing about it. That’s a good way of getting bad behavior continuing. If you don’t check and arrest the bad behavior, it will continue.”

Robertson added that Zambia, Zimbabwe’s northern neighbor, is facing similar problems.

“If you have heard stories from Zambia, the Chinese employers there are also very unpopular,” he said. “I think their behavior is standard for developing countries; they feel, ‘We can do what we like because we are so important to these countries.’”

(Edited by Robert George and Emily Crockett.)



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Catalytic platinum is big business now

Catalytic platinum is big business now

HARARE, Zimbabwe—Parked behind 50 other cars in front of a gas station in Bulawayo’s Central Business District, early on a Friday morning, 30-year-old Henry Chinula flicks through a magazine he keeps in the car to kill time while waiting for his turn to fill up.

Outside, a middle-aged man with dreadlocks and a brown jacket unexpectedly leans near his closed window and offers a greeting. Chinula hesitantly lowers the window just below his eyes in case it is a distraction for a robbery. To his surprise, the man starts mumbling about exhaust pipe dust and dishonest mechanics who steal from oblivious vehicle owners.

The man offers Chinula what he claims is a good deal in U.S. dollars on his catalytic converter. Many ordinary Zimbabweans have been impoverished due to the economic meltdown and have turned to buying catalytic converters to resell them in Harare. Some businesses, including landlords, have stopped accepting local currency, since its value continues to plummet.

A catalytic converter removed from a truck exhaust pipe before it is ground into dust in a dealer workshop in Bulawayo. (Lungelo Ndhlovu/Zenger)

A catalytic converter is part of the emission control system located in a box on the exhaust pipe under a car. More technically, “A catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control device that reduces toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine into less toxic pollutants by catalyzing a reduction and oxidation reaction into less harmful gases such as carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen gas,” said Lawrence Mashungu, a climate change mitigation and renewable energy expert who works in the Climate Change Management Department of Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement.

Removing catalytic converters is a booming business in Zimbabwe because the dust they give off is rich in platinum, palladium, rhodium and sometimes gold that can be easily sold in markets in Zambia and South Africa where they can fetch more than $200, Wellington Madumira, a lobby and advocacy officer for the Zimbabwe Regional Environment Organization (ZERO), told Zenger News.

Some catalytic converter dealer groups, such as “Procatzim,” advertise on Facebook that high-end models can fetch car owners up to $170, while ordinary ones are worth $100. Once removed or damaged, it generally costs between $1,000 to $2,500 to replace the catalytic converter on a vehicle.

Components of a catalytic converter removed from a truck exhaust in a dealer workshop in Bulawayo. (Lungelo Ndhlovu/Zenger)

“It must be noted that most of the cars that we have in Zimbabwe are from developed countries such as Japan, China, Singapore, the U.K., and the U.S.A.,” Mashungu said. “They are being dumped here mainly because they would have failed the emission level tests in those jurisdictions.”

In Zimbabwe, there is a huge desire to own cars, leading to a rise in imports, specifically of used Japanese cars. The country now has more than 900,000, according to transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza.

“Across the country, there has been a scramble for catalytic converters found in cars imported from Japan since 2019. Most motorists are unaware that dubious mechanics have since made a killing off of the devices taken from their cars,” he said.

Motorist Tapfuma Machakaire said he was duped by a mechanic who led him to believe that the removal of the catalytic converter improves engine efficiency . “As we speak, my car doesn’t have the catalytic converter device because it was removed by the mechanic. I was lucky to be present during my car’s exhaust repairs when the mechanic removed it and told me he was going to pay me $65 USD for the powder,” he said.

Amkela Sidange Vellah, the environmental education and publicity manager for the Environmental Management Agency, has warned against removing catalytic devices, saying it is dangerous to the environment.

“When they are removed from cars, it means we are going to release more toxic gases and emissions into the atmosphere, which will impact the environment negatively,” she said.

The total annual greenhouse gas emissions for Zimbabwe in 2016 was nearly 66 metric tons of CO2, according to data from Climate Watch.

Sidange Vellah said that Zimbabwean law mandates that the agency monitor and inspect vehicle exhaust emissions in the country, which could leave owners open to consequences.

“Those vehicles that are found emitting outside the specifications are either given an environmental protection order to repair their cars,” she said, “or are fined.”

(Edited by Ashley Perry and Cathy Jones)



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