Copied from The Economist.
Huyu ndiye magufuli tunashindanga tukiimbiwa hapa ni kama yeye ni yesu.
“African socialism” did not work in Tanzania last time, either
CRITICALLY ill in a hospital in Nairobi, Tundu Lissu, the chief whip of Tanzania’s main opposition party, Chadema, is a lesson to those who would criticise the Tanzanian president, John Magufuli (pictured). On September 7th Mr Lissu was gunned down in broad daylight near his house in the sleepy administrative capital, Dodoma, after returning from a session in parliament. The attempted assassination came just two weeks after he was arrested—for the sixth time—for such things as insulting the president. It is not clear who was behind the attack. A month later, the government has yet to make any arrests. Mr Lissu had previously complained about being followed, and said he worried he might be killed. “This cowardly attack on one of Tanzania’s most fearless and prominent politicians raises concerns about the safety of all dissident voices in the country, at a time when space for dissent is quickly shrinking,” said Amnesty International, a human-rights group.
Tanzania, a country of 55m people on the East African coast, is rarely seen as one of Africa’s problem cases. Unlike Congo, Uganda or Burundi, it has never had a civil war or a military dictatorship. And although its elections have never once ousted the party (and its predecessor) that has governed Tanzania since independence in 1962, nor are they especially bloody affairs. Yet over the past two years, since the election of John Magufuli, Tanzania’s descent into autocracy has been stunning. It is a lesson in how when the presidency is strong and other institutions are weak, a single bad leader can set a country back many years.
The attack on Mr Lissu occurred in an atmosphere of intensifying political repression. Opposition rallies have been banned for almost a year on spurious security grounds. Dozens of people have been arrested for insulting the president on internet chat groups under a cybercrimes law. Even musicians have not escaped the rap. In March Emmanuel Elibariki, a hip-hop artist, released a song in which he asked “is there still freedom of expression in the country?” The answer was no: he was swiftly arrested and his song was banned from the airwaves.
Mr Lissu’s is not the only case where words have been met with violence. In August the offices of IMMMA, a law firm that has handled lawsuits against the government, was bombed. Several opposition figures have disappeared in the past year, including the personal assistant of Freeman Mbowe, the leader of Chadema. On the island of Zanzibar members of the Civic United Front, a separatist-leaning party that won elections in 2015 that were later annulled, have been targeted by pro-government militias known as “zombies”.
Mr Magufuli, who is nicknamed “the bulldozer”, impressed many when he came into office by cracking down on corruption. But his economic ideas have a whiff of the “African socialism” of Julius Nyerere, the country’s founding leader, who declared a one-party state, nationalised factories and forced peasants at gunpoint onto collective farms. Donors had to step in to prevent mass starvation.
Mr Magufuli is not as ruinously radical. But he has caused traffic to collapse at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s main port, which serves six countries, by imposing a huge tax on goods that pass through it. Ships have simply gone to Kenya instead.
More startling still is Tanzania’s dispute with Acacia, a British gold-mining firm. The government claims that its two mines have been producing more than 10 times as much gold as they declared (which would make them the two largest gold mines in the world, by far). Preposterously, it says the firm owes taxes of $190bn, or roughly four times Tanzania’s annual GDP. Acacia has been forced to halt exports and has cut back production.
Other firms worry they may be next. Petra Diamonds closed its mine in Tanzania in September after the government seized a parcel of diamonds it was exporting. And on October 9th Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian cement billionaire, accused Mr Magufuli of scaring investors away. Few Tanzanian businessmen are as critical publicly, but in private they are damning. “We are shit scared. If this can happen to Acacia, it can happen to anyone,” says one.
Foreign firms can at least turn to foreign judges for protection. In August a Bombardier jet bought for Air Tanzania was seized by a Canadian court on behalf of Stirling Civil Engineering. The company had won an international arbitration in 2010 after not being paid for building roads. This may not be the last such judgment. Symbion Power, an energy producer, is claiming $561m from Tanzania’s state-owned electricity utility after it was not paid for electricity for more than a year.
What will happen now? There are few constraints on Mr Magufuli. With the opposition neutered, the ruling party remains mostly unchallenged. Mr Magufuli’s allies in parliament have even suggested extending the presidential term from five years to seven. Tanzania suffered wretchedly under one bullheaded socialist. It cannot afford another.