Category Archives: Tanzania

New Research: Dynamics of Electoral Authoritarianism in Africa

Since the end of the Cold War, terms like competitive or electoral authoritarian have abounded to describe countries with regular multiparty elections that do not live up to commonly held standards of freedom and fairness. Africa is no exception to this trend, and is home to a significant proportion of electoral authoritarian regimes. Many of these countries have grabbed headlines lately, whether it is the stronger turn towards authoritarianism under John Magufuli in Tanzania, or the continued entrenchment of the Paul Biya regime in Cameroon. 

Yet, despite the prevalence of electoral authoritarianism, not all unfair elections are created equally. A closer look at Africa reveals a range of practices that range from more drastic forms of manipulation like stuffing ballot boxes or arresting political opponents, to less obvious subversionsof the democratic process. These differences reveal very important information, and can tell us something deeper about how authoritarianism is structured and operates.

In my new book How Autocrats Compete, I explore these differences across Africa, and use in-depth case studies of Tanzania, Cameroon, and Kenya. I make the argument that decisions about manipulation in unfair elections are shaped primarily by the ability of autocrats to rely on consistent elite and voter support. The key question is how do autocrats secure this consistent support? A related question is what happens to electoral authoritarian competition if autocrats cannot rely on that consistent support? 

Credible Ruling Parties and Authoritarian Uncertainty

In the book I draw attention to what I call a credible ruling party to explain when an autocrat might manipulate less, but nonetheless win elections decisively. Tanzania provides the prototype for this kind of ruling party. The country’s eminent father figure once wrote, “no party which limits its membership to a clique can ever free itself from fear of overthrow from those it has excluded.” And indeed, for many reasons detailed in the book, the ruling party in Tanzania, CCM and its predecessor TANU, was exceptional and helped mitigate key uncertainties of authoritarian rule.

First, CCM developed an internally coherent party. The party held lively national congresses and competitive primaries for decades before elections were even held. In 1985, Nyerere took the unprecedented step of stepping down and introducing a competitive primary system to select the presidential candidate. These qualities limited a number of tendencies that characterize other autocracies. To succeed, elites had to play by rules. The president, while powerful, had to cede some independent authority to the party. While corruption became a major issue, the party fought to keep its institutional processes intact. 

Second, Nyerere also approached the question of popular support differently. CCM is a remarkably large party, with offices in place for every ten-homes. This put everyday citizens in daily touch with the party. Nyerere also deliberately targeted rural constituencies with public goods, regardless of their ethnicity. This fostered a relationship with the ruling party that did not depend on the identity of the person in charge, but the continued presence of the party in power. 

Both factors influenced how CCM contested elections in the multiparty era. In my research I show how CCM elites express fewer grievances and are less likely to defect than in other countries. The party frequently inserts itself into local disputes, especially during contentious nomination processes. Crucially, the presidential primary system has neutralized a key source of tension – succession. This was clear in 2015 when several presidential candidates, including the frontrunner Edward Lowassa, were removed from consideration due to violations of the party’s bylaws. While Lowassa defected, few other elites joined him.

My research also shows that CCM’s popular mobilization strategies have paid off. CCM keeps a general rural electoral edge, but it wins particularly big in areas that benefitted from a specific phase of economic planning in the 1970s. Opposition parties often make reference to the closed mindset of voters from these areas. This is quite different from other African electoral authoritarian regimes, where autocrats could only rely on their co-ethnics for support. 

These features of the Tanzanian case meant that the regime could contest elections with greater ex ante guarantees of electoral victory, and therefore did not have to manipulate elections as heavily. The regime could rely on an extensive cadre of elite support that was invested in the long-term survival of the party, and could mobilize a significant proportion of the populace based on their historical record of distributing government services and goods to them.

Electoral Authoritarian Competition without Guarantees

Credible ruling parties such as CCM are rare. In the book I note Mozambique, Senegal, and Seychelles as comparative examples. However, more often than not regimes are left with fewer institutional guarantees. In these cases, electoral authoritarian regimes are much more dependent on the traditional tools of autocracy – repression and cooptation. In these cases the outcome is much more predisposed toward more overt and stark manipulation of the electoral process, which also means that the utility of these strategies is less certain. 

In Cameroon we find a regime that has been in place essentially since independence, but entered the multiparty era without a credible ruling party. As expected, Cameroon’s initial experience with elections was turbulent. Many elites defected from the ruling party, and cited the opaque standards for candidacy. Likewise, the ruling party relied heavily on the backing of voters from Paul Biya’s co-ethnics in the center and south. The ruling CPDM and Biya eked by with a paper-thin victory, and amidst heavy condemnationof the electoral process by international observers. 

However, since that foundational election in 1992, Cameroon’s electoral authoritarian regime has rebuilt political support. In October last year, Paul Biya entered his 36thyear in office with over 70% of the vote, and the ruling party currently holds 78% of the legislative seats. Does this mean that repressive strategies are effective in the long-term? 

My answer is that only under specific conditions. Cameroon has deployed a wide range of manipulative processes without much international pushback. In fact, I argue that Cameroon has been the beneficiary of authoritarian international patronage, primarily from the French, but also from the United States. These actors have shielded the regime from the downsides of repression, provided critical financial assistance, and used rhetoric to maintain Cameroon’s public image. Relatedly, opposition parties in Cameroon have had few opportunities to build their international reputation. 

Some examples help to make this point. Compared to Tanzania, Cameroon has garnered far less international attention during its elections, and has some of the least observed elections on the continent. Compared to the average African country, Cameroon has liberalized much less of its economy and has maintained nearly 50% of its state-owned enterprises. This was accomplished due to French financial assistance during periods of economic crisis. Cameroon is also not a frequent subject of international discourse, and maintains a key role in France’s international relations and the United States’ War on Terror. 

Why Understanding How Autocrats Compete is Important

There are a few lessons about authoritarianism that the book provides. First, we should not conflate a seemingly less repressive election with a greater propensity toward democracy. In fact, a historically less repressive electoral regime like Tanzania might signal a more confident regime. The recent deterioration in political conditions in Tanzania seems shocking because of a fundamental misunderstanding of what the regime was like before John Magufuli’s election. 

Second, the book tells us that the nature of institutions created by autocrats have consequences. Arguably, Tanzania’s credible ruling party provides it with more legs to stand on, and an ability to prevent challenges rather than just react to them. The growing repression in Tanzania since 2015 is actually indicative of challenges to the traditional factors that have sustained the regime. By contrast, Cameroon has tied continued to tie innovations in its repressive capacity to the international arena. Specifically, the 2014 Anti-Terror lawwas passed to ostensibly combat Boko Haram, but is now a tool used to stifle political discourse. 

We need to be careful when we assess terms like “authoritarian stability” by referring simply to an autocrat’s time in office. It is crucial to look under the hood and appreciate how power is exercised in authoritarian regimes, and to grasp the real diversity of authoritarian institutions and politics.  

Tanzania – The “new” CCM, same as the old CCM? Continuity and change in authoritarian parties

Under Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli, elected in October 2015, much has changed in Tanzania’s politics. Power has become more centralised in the hands of the President, opposition parties marginalised, and state security forces more prominent, to name but a few notable trends.

Rather than comment generally on these changes, though, this post examines one important element, namely how Tanzania’s long-time ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, has evolved over the past couple years to become the “New CCM”. What is so “new”, exactly? To what extent is the party building on its own historical inheritance? And how is it breaking from the past?

More broadly, this is a post about how we understand continuity and change in a ruling party, and what that understanding can tell us about a regime’s changing distribution of power. In what follows, I outline an approach to studying authoritarian party cohesion and institutional strength, plus how this relates shifting power dynamics. I then sketch out how to apply this approach to a more in-depth case analysis, in this instance, of Tanzania’s CCM.

How to think about authoritarian party institutions

Much of the recent comparative literature on authoritarian party institutions presents them as an important elite coordinating mechanism. The general idea is that ruling parties support a credible power-sharing arrangement, to use the favoured political science jargon; once formed, they help independently shape and constrain patterns of elite behaviour, thereby securing greater regime stability and endurance.[1] This understanding builds on a consensus within the rational choice school that institutions “structure social interaction and produce equilibrium outcomes, that is outcomes that no one has an incentive to alter.”[2]

There is an alternative way of viewing party institutions, however, inspired by a mix of critical political economy and historical institutionalist traditions.[3] This approach places an analysis of power centre stage. Rather than presenting institutions as stable coordinating devices, it highlights how they are themselves part of an ongoing power struggle; they are “objects of political competition”[4] that “reflect, and also reproduce and magnify, particular patterns of power distribution in politics.”[5] Institutions are, in other words, sources of power in their own right; they “actively facilitate the organization and empowerment of certain groups while actively disarticulating and marginalising others.”

Adapting this second approach to the study of parties, the key question is not about how party institutions shape the political behaviour of elites; rather, the focus is on how powerful individuals and groups navigate within an existing institutional framework, and how they seek to change it. Phrased differently, we are no longer talking abstractly about what “the Party” does, as a would-be independent coordinating device; we are instead trying to understand who is best able to bend party institutions to their political will, how and to what effect.

This study has at least three parts to it, as I elaborate in some of my other work.[6]

First, there is a need to appreciate the significance of a shifting societal distribution of power, and notably of ownership and wealth.[7] This is an area in which authoritarian elites intervene directly, including with strategies of “politicized accumulation”;[8] they influence opportunities for private individuals’ to accumulate wealth but also whether and how these individuals can use their wealth as political finance or patronage.

Second, shifting the focus to party institutions themselves, we must analyse how a prevailing distribution of power influences the ability of political elites to manipulate party structures and rules. Where power is more dispersed and competition across rival factions intense, we may see the outright subversion or strategic redeployment of formal rules as determined by informal pressures.[9] Where authoritarian leaders are, by contrast, able to consolidate power further, they may reinforce this effort by centralising and streamlining party structures, thereby limiting opportunities for would-be rivals to coordinate and form opposing factions. Whatever the specific power dynamics in play, though it is important to add that history matters; a party’s institutional inheritance, the mix of formal rules and established norms, defines the existing set of institutional resources that elites can leverage. It also affects the imaginative possibilities for actors looking to create new institutional arrangements.

This brings us to the third element in our study, namely ideas. A particular—again, often inherited—set of ideas will shape both how political actors understand their own interests and the strategic options available to them. It also shapes what actions may be deemed legitimate, and thus what narrative can be built to justify them. All of this applies in the case of party institutions, specifically, as I hope to show below.

Indeed, moving on from this perhaps rather dense theoretical discussion, I now turn to the central focus: Tanzania and President Magufuli’s “New” CCM.

Introducing CCM, from socialism to party “privatization”

To understand what Magufuli is trying to do now, we must understand what came before.

Briefly, Tanzania’s ruling party has continued to evolve—as an institution—from its pre-independence days as the spearhead of a nationalist struggle to the present.

While in the early 1960s, CCM—then the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) [10]—underwent a period of institutional erosion, its fortunes reversed with the introduction of one-party rule in 1965 and then President Nyerere’s Arusha Declaration in 1967, which committed Tanzania to Ujamaa, a brand of African socialism. The Declaration and subsequent economic reforms restricted opportunities for private sector expansion and accumulation while centralising rents and thus patronage in the hands of state and party officials. This economic balance of power then buttressed parallel efforts to strengthen the ruling party, notably by enhancing the control of the Central Committee and National Executive Committee at the top while extending its national reach through multiple layers of regional, district and branch structures, all the way down to the 10-House cell unit. Tanzania’s relative poverty prevented it from developing anything like the strength of, say, eastern Europe’s communist regimes while low-level factionalism and informal patronage networks endured.[11] But it was far more cohesive and institutionally strong than, for instance, its counterpart in neighbouring Kenya, whose post-independence political economy was more capitalist and private sector-oriented.

This socialist balance of power in Tanzania, already under strain in the late 1970s and early 1980s, changed dramatically with IFI-backed structural adjustment reforms from the mid-1980s. As Tanzania’s trade was liberalised, its vast array of parastatals slowly dismantled and privatised, and its state-owned banks sold off, a new form of “wild capitalism” took root. This was characterised by the growth of a new politico-economic elite, the proliferation of rival patron-client factions within the ruling party, and growing corruption. The knock-on effects for CCM’s institutional strength and cohesion were equally profound. The Ujamaa-era efforts to erect a barrier between political and business spheres failed and were then abandoned, leaving informal patronage networks to take root and grow within and around the existing party structures. Individuals within the party’s bureaucracy, from the highest to lowest levels, were ensnared in this factional competition. Meanwhile, formal procedures, notably governing candidate selection, were undermined as various forms of bribery and private influence peddling became the norm.

By 2000, the year after founding President and “Father of the Nation” Julius Nyerere passed on, the then President Benjamin Mkapa warned of CCM’s ongoing “privatisation”, and this at a time when he himself felt threatened by a set of nouveau-riche business elite-cum-political financiers. While Mkapa attempted a series of reforms, his successor—President Jakaya Kikwete (2005-2015)—road to power on the back of his own powerful mtandao, or network, only to see it fracture into competing factions, which he then struggled to control. Kikwete repeatedly articulated a commitment to reform and more stringent anti-corruption efforts, notably within CCM itself, but these efforts were largely unsuccessful, with Kikwete caught between different factions—attempting to tame, appease and build them in turn.

By the end of his presidency, concern about CCM’s institutional drift was widespread, as were fears about its moral decay. Once a party for the wanyonge, the down and out, it had been taken over by the matajiri, the rich.

Enter Magufuli, “The Unexpected”

As noted in previous posts, Magufuli’s victory in the 2015 race to be CCM presidential nominee was a surprise. He was Magufuli, “The Unexpected”, as labelled by the wonderfully wry Elsie Eyakuze.

After a complicated sequence of events during which CCM’s top leadership broke the party’s own selection rules and two rival factions knocked each other out of the running, Magufuli became the nominee.  He lacked any strong political base, or mtandao. He faced a further challenge after leading CCM heavyweight, Edward Lowassa, defected to become the presidential candidate for an emboldened opposition coalition, bringing many political financiers and CCM members with him. This was the biggest defection CCM had ever seen, leaving Magufuli’s former rivals for the presidential nomination to lend their own support and campaign infrastructure to a newly constituted election task force.

But what started as a challenge arguably became an opportunity for Magufuli once in office. Although he still needed to build his own base, the departure of Lowassa meant that one of the most powerful informal networks for political coordination within CCM had been undermined. Meanwhile, many of Lowassa’s associates—still in the party—were left fearful of being labelled wasaliti, traitors.

Magufuli—in keeping with what his apparent personal leadership proclivities—went on to seize this opportunity, pursuing a strategy of centralising power as both President and, from mid-2016, CCM Chairman. While this strategy has several relevant components, not least a form of “autocratic legalism”, constraints on the opposition, and closer ties with the security forces, I focus below on two important dimensions relating to the ruling party itself: a new strategy of “politicized accumulation”, limiting independent sources of political finance, and extensive party institutional reforms, centralising power under his leadership.

As implied in the above discussion, these two dimensions are mutually reinforcing; a narrowing societal distribution of power and resources is reflected and amplified through the consolidation of party institutional control under the Chairman.

Disciplining the private sector, empowering the State

Magufuli’s new strategy of politicized accumulation and financial discipline can itself be broken down into several components.

First, there is his anti-corruption push launched immediately after entering office. Public servants who abused their office risked falling foul of the new “bursting boils” initiative, which swiftly claimed the heads of, for instance, the Tanzania Port Authority, the Tanzania Revenue Authority, and the head of the Preventing and Combating of Corruption Bureau. Private sector actors were also put on notice with one of Tanzania’s wealthiest men, Said Bakhresa, tangled in the customs duty affair that helped fell the TRA boss. Two more prominent businessmen implicated in a multi-million-dollar energy sector scandal under Kikwete, Harbinder Singh Sethi and James Rugemalira, were later arrested and now, over a year later, are still languishing in jail awaiting trial. Other politically-connected businessmen have been charged with a range of offenses, included tax avoidance, corrupt transactions and money laundering. Over time, people have increasingly asked questions about the extent of Magufuli’s anti-corruption zeal, with some people allegedly wrongly ensnared in prolonged investigations while others are apparently overlooked. At the very least, though, the President has sent a message to both public officials and private actors: tread carefully, or there will be consequences.

Beyond this anti-corruption push, Magufuli has adopted a new policy orientation in his pursuit of “Tanzania ya viwanda”, an industrialised Tanzania, that have limited private sector expansion and investor confidence. Dramatic cuts to public servants’ allowances and other emoluments reduced the circulation of money in the economy, with perhaps the most direct effects felt in the hospitality industry. More aggressive revenue collection and fluctuations in fiscal policy have also contributed to a view among many private sector actors that the economy had declined, as indicated by a survey conducted last year of medium-sized firms.[12] An increase in non-performing loans combined with the government’s decision to move its accounts from commercial banks to the Bank of Tanzania saw interest rates rise and banks reduce their lending. In mining, the government has adopted a very aggressive posture vis-à-vis several foreign investors and seen them halt or scale back operations.

I could go on, but the main point is that a combination of policies adopted by the Magufuli government have limited the surplus available in the private sector, including any money for political finance. Some of this may be an unintended consequence, as President Magufuli and his Ministers have met more with business associations than their predecessors and have repeatedly affirmed that the private sector is key to the industrialisation effort—so long as it pays its fair share of tax. A number of individual businessmen, however, who have political ties to either the opposition or now collapsing factions within CCM, have seen their business interests directly targeted—for alleged tax arrears, confiscation of land leased by the government, loss of government procurement contracts, and the like. And this, in addition to the above-mentioned cases of people caught out for corruption.

I final trend worth noting is the government’s statist turn. It is using procurement contracts, state-owned banks and pension funds to channel finance towards parastatals, military-owned enterprise, the prison service, and various government agencies who are expanding or starting new ventures in construction, agricultural production, processing, and manufacturing. The government has also pushed for a greater share of ownership in public-private partnerships, notably in Tanzania’s lucrative extractive sector. As the Executive Director of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation recently commented, “It has reached a point where the government feels happy to do business with itself instead of with the private sector.” While part of the reason for this approach is an oft-repeated conviction that it is save money, the politically relevant point is that the statist emphasis ensures the further centralisation of rents, and thus of funds to bankroll either opposition parties or rival factions within CCM.

In sum, Magufuli has adopted an overall economic approach that—both intentionally and, in some instances, perhaps less so—is limiting sources of independent political finance, and thus taking a first important step towards consolidating power and resources.

Creating the “New” CCM

These economic interventions are mirrored—and seemingly magnified—by an explicit campaign to centralise control within CCM’s institutions. This effort involves what might seem a paradoxical mix of institutional strengthening and personalisation. Slater (2003) has already examined how these two can—and do—go together in an authoritarian context,[13] although his analysis of the institutions involved is rather vague. What I highlight here, narrowing the focus to a ruling party, is how Magufuli has reinforced the structures within CCM that can help centralise power under the Chairman; when it is politically expedient, however, he has also used those same structures more opportunistically, in the process actually breaking party rules. This gets back to the core idea of institutions as a political resource, a tool to be used when convenient and ignored, manipulated or changed when not.

Magufuli set a major institutional reform process in train shortly after he took over as Chairman from Kiwkete in July, 2016. By December, the CCM National Executive Committee (NEC)—closely guided by President Magufuli and the Central Committee (CC)—had approved a set of recommended reforms to the party constitution. These were then voted on at a National Congress meeting in March 2017.

The March meeting coincided with a wave of expulsions from CCM of “traitors” and rumours of widespread discontent, with two MPs detained by police for questioning. Even so, the National Congress rubber stamped the proposed reforms. These included slashing the frequency of party meetings and reducing the membership of key party organs. Crucially, the number of NEC members was halved, and the number of CC members was reduced from 34 to 26, a significant proportion of which are appointed by the Chairman. Property belonging to CCM’s affiliated mass organisations—including the influential crucibles of CCM faction-forming, the Women’s League and Youth League—was also brought under the control of the central Party, whose Board of Trustees would be responsible for routine oversight.

While there were too many reforms to mention all of them here, a final highly significant change entailed drastically centralising control over parliamentary nominations. The new rules strip party members of their right to participate in primaries, instead designating a more restricted Constituency Congress as the body entitled to conduct primaries. But regardless of who participates, the primaries risk losing much of their meaning as the revised rules also empower the Central Committee to determine—for the first time ever—what candidates will participate in those primaries, with a maximum of three. The Central Committee also retains its right to advise the NEC on the final selection of a parliamentary nominee after the primaries have happened.

By shifting power from party members to the Central Committee, this proposed change alters to whom MPs are most directly accountable; now the Central Committee and Party Chairman play a bigger role than ever in deciding their political fate. Of course, how rules are applied in practice matters as much as how they appear on paper, particularly with candidate selection procedure, which has been routinely undermined by informal pressures since at least the 1990s. But a spate of by-elections—triggered by opposition MPs defecting to CCM—has seen the Central Committee unilaterally imposing the recently defected MPs as the new CCM by-election candidates, much to the chagrin of many lower-level party members. As such, the rules continue to be broken, but in a way that centralises power even further.

These reforms, which on paper clearly centralise power, are also presented as part of a strategy for rooting out factionalism and corruption within CCM. And indeed, they would appear to limit opportunities for building and sustaining patron-client networks without the blessing of the Chairman himself. Unsurprisingly, therefore, certain practices appear to be on the wane. For instance, previously, “there were some people who were actually hunting to be a member of the CC”, as noted by a CCM activist in discussion. That is because “you are privileged to know every development within the party and country,” which was a particular “advantage” for some politicians “doing business as well”.

There are additional instances, though, where the link is even closer, tying together CCM leaders’ institutional reform agenda and their effort to wrest control over political finance. In addition to the above-mentioned case of CCM’s mass organisations, a key example is the effort to audit and control CCM’s own assets, thereby ensuring greater financial autonomy. In this vein, Magufuli appointed an asset-tracing committee chaired by the University professor, Bashiru Ally, in December 2017, which then submitted its report in May this year. While the report has not been made public, it is alleged that many party assets—from football stadiums to petrol stations—were effectively “privatised” by CCM officials, and this from local to national level. Quite apart from helping to centralise control over party revenue, though, the report is also a tool for control; many prominent politicians are reportedly implicated and thus have the threat of a formal charge hanging over them—should they step out of line.

While this is still only a sketch of the changes within CCM, it nevertheless gives some sense of how these are geared towards strengthening institutions of central control, even as these structures and procedures may be bent further to fit a particular political agenda of the top leadership.

Before concluding, it is worth briefly reflecting on what ideas frame some of these recent changes. Many resonate with earlier mentioned concerns about CCM’s institutional drift and moral decay. Magufuli himself explicitly invokes Nyerere’s legacy, both with his economic interventions and ambition for a “New” CCM. Some of the historical resonances are even more explicit when coming from Bashiru Ally, who Magufuli appointed as CCM Secretary General in May. Himself a left-wing academic and champion of a certain Ujamaa legacy, Bashiru routinely invokes a language reminiscent of 1960s and 1970s TANU rhetoric. In his first press conference, he drove home that the party was returning to the “principles of its founders”, the “principles of the Arusha Declaration” to “reduce the gap between the haves and the have nots” and to uplift “the downtrodden.” He has further insisted that CCM must be “self-reliant”, another Nyerere-ist aim, cutting ties with its private financiers, or ensuring they only donate without expecting favours in return. Finally, he has queried the wealth of politicians, for instance, accusing some of stealing land from the poor.

This return of an old language, an old set of ideas helps frame and to some extent justify what Magufuli is doing. It renders his actions intelligible in a Tanzanian context.

But in many ways, the supposed historical similarities linking the “New” CCM and the CCM of past years are superficial. The economic interventions are statist, focused notably on big infrastructure projects, but without the emphasis on cooperative ownership or the democratic management of Ujamaa villages that defined the early TANU efforts.

As regards institutional changes to CCM, and notably Magufuli’s centralisation of control, this has raised deep—if not always very vocal—concerns among both the party’s rank-and-file members and its elite. In a much-commented on statement, Former President Mkapa (1995-2005) declared he wanted to hear less of “me, me” and more about “the Government of CCM”. Meanwhile, a statement by Bashiru regarding the discretionary enforcement of party rules, notably for candidate selection, was also widely circulated and criticised. “What’s written [in the CCM constitution], if its useful, it’s used,” Bashiru noted, before adding, “if it appears not to be useful, it’s changed.” As one commentator argued, “CCM […] is decaying its own institutions that give it legitimacy beyond electoral ballots.”

Some concluding thoughts

There are still many questions regarding how sustainability the changes Magufuli has introduced, both economically and politically, and thus what compromises he will have to make.

But for now, he has combined efforts to reshape the distribution of power in Tanzania with a drive for party reform; he has reduced the potential for rival patron-client factions to emerge through his economic interventions whilst further magnifying this effect through his strengthening of party structure, and selective breaking of certain rules.

To return to a more general, theoretical discussion, there are notable advantages to be gained from adopting a political economy analysis of party institutions, one that appreciates the complex power struggles that go on within them, and that lead to their gradual evolution. As I try to show through the Tanzanian case, it is through this analytical framing that we can make sense of institutional continuity and change in an authoritarian party, how it is both shaped by and in turn helps shape a particular distribution of power, and what effects this then has on a range of political and—although this is not the main focus here[14]—economic outcomes.

This approach is radically different from a the more widespread tendency to present authoritarian party institutions as independent coordinating devices that improve regime stability and survival. This understanding of what parties are and how they work is not particularly realistic, nor is the key outcome of interest actually that interesting. Focusing our attention on why CCM has survived in power for over 50 years, for instance, risks missing out a discussion of what has actually happened during that time, and why.[15] Who has replaced whom in power? Who has become richer? Who has become poorer? What are the political implications of that?

A political science literature on authoritarian parties would likely provide a greater service, shedding more light on politically salient outcomes, if it moves away from its established moorings, and starts to explore new approaches.



[1] Brownlee, Jason. 2007. Authoritarianism in an age of democratization. New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Magaloni, Beatriz. 2008. “Credible Power-Sharing and the Longevity of Authoritarian Rule.” Comparative Political Studies 41 (4/5):715-41.

Reuter, Ora John. 2017. The Origins of Dominant Parties: Building Authoritarian Institutions in Post-Soviet Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[2] Levi, Margaret 2009. “Reconsiderations of Rational Choice in Comparative and Historical Analysis ” In Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture, and Structure ed. M. I. Lichbach and A. Zuckerman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 128.

[3] Pepinsky, Thomas. 2014. “The Institutional Turn in Comparative Authoritarianism.” British Journal of Political Science 44 (3):631-53.

Collord, Michaela. 2018. “The political economy of institutions in Africa: Comparing Authoritarian Parties and Parliaments in Tanzania and Uganda”, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

[4] Boone, Catherine. 1992. Merchant capital and the roots of state power in Senegal, 1930-1985. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7.

[5] Thelen, Kathleen. 1999. “Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Politics.” Annual Review of Political Science 2:394.

[6] Collord, 2018.

[7] Sangmpam, S.N. 2007. “Politics Rules: The False Primacy of Institutions in Developing Countries.” Political Studies 55:201-24.

Rodan, Garry, and Kanishka Jayasuriya. 2012. “A Social Foundations Approach.” In Routledge Handbook of Democratization, ed. J. Heynes. Oxford: Routledge.

Gray, Hazel. 2018. Turbulence and Order in Economic Development: Institutions and Economic Transformation in Tanzania and Vietnam. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[8] Boone, 1992.

[9] On the interaction between formal and informal institutions, see:

Helmke, Gretchen and Steven Levitsky. 2006. Informal institutions and democracy: Lessons from Latin America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

On modes of institutional change, see:

Mahoney, James, and Kathleen Thelen. 2010. “A theory of gradual institutional change.” In Explaining institutional change: ambiguity, agency and power ed. J. Mahoney and T. Kathleen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[10] TANU ruled continental Tanzania (Tanganyika) from 1961 while another party, ASP, governed in Zanzibar from 1964 until 1977 when TANU and ASP merged to form a single party, CCM.

[11] Gray, 2018.

[12] World Bank. 2017. Tanzania Economic Update: Managing Water Wisely: 8.

[13] Slater, Dan. 2003. “Iron Cage in an Iron Fist: Authoritarian Institutions and the Personalization of Power in Malaysia” Comparative Politics 36(1): 81-101.

[14] Gray, 2018.

Whitfield, Lindsay, Ole Therkildsen, Lars Buur, and Anne Mette Kjaer. 2015. The politics of African industrial policy: a comparative perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

[15] Pepinsky (2014) makes a similar point.

Tanzania – What Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s new Secretary General means for the party

Last week, President John Magufuli accepted the resignation of CCM’s Secretary General, Abdulrahman Kinana, and chose a replacement, Dr Bashiru Ally. Dr Bashiru, as he is known, was then endorsed by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

At first glance, this may look like an unremarkable transition from one top party bureaucrat to another. More than a change of guard, though, Bashiru’s appointment is part of Magufuli’s ongoing effort to transform Tanzania’s long-time ruling party. The aim is to limit factional contestation and restore CCM’s bureaucratic strength, which had eroded under previous presidents. Both objectives, if achieved, will further consolidate Magufuli’s control.

On Kinana, the one-time reformer

Abdulrahman Kinana, a well-known politician and ex-military man, took over as CCM Secretary General (SG) in 2012 when the party had reached a new low. The previous Secretary, Wilson Mukama, lasted barely a year in office after his plans to tackle corruption in the party exacerbated an already fraught situation. Kinana then inherited the job of restoring calm amongst CCM’s warring factions and confidence amongst its neglected, rank-and-file activists.

He took to the job with gusto. While his demands that ineffective and corrupt ministers be held to account remained controversial, his nation-wide tour—a direct throw-back to a campaign undertaken by former President Nyerere in the late 1980s—was seen as a success. Images of Kinana marching through fields dressed in CCM’s trade-mark green and with a hoe slung over his shoulder sent a powerful message: here was a party ready to reconnect with its roots.

It is hard to know from this media spectacle, though, how much change actually occurred. There is reason to believe that it did not go very deep. Certainly, the large-scale defections ahead of the 2015 elections—from the thwarted presidential hopeful, Edward Lowassa, down to regional and district party officials and activists—underscore the continued strength of factional competition within CCM. Magufuli, as the successful CCM presidential nominee, then ran a highly personalised campaign with scant reference to the ruling party itself.

Whatever the success or not of Kinana’s efforts, they were quickly superseded. When Magufuli won the election—albeit by an historically low margin—and took over the CCM Chairmanship from former President Jakaya Kikwete, he made plain his ambition to pursue a more thoroughgoing party reform agenda. The idea was to eliminate corruption and factional competition and to ensure CCM’s financial autonomy and bureaucratic strength. Admittedly, this stated aim was not that different from what came before. Indeed, Kikwete articulated a similar agenda in his final speech as Party Chairman.[1] But Magufuli soon showed that he intended to follow through in a more aggressive way.

Kinana, the erstwhile lead reformer, seemed less keen to take part in this new project. He attempted to resign as Secretary General in 2016 when Magufuli became Chairman. Magufuli, however, refused to accept his resignation. Kinana then adopted an uncharacteristically low profile, particularly when contrasted with his earlier showmanship. Come March 2017, when sweeping reforms were introduced to CCM’s constitution, Kinana was eclipsed by the young and highly energetic CCM Publicity Secretary, Humphrey Polepole. He then failed to attend a party NEC meeting in October, and ahead of a CCM National Congress in December, he again asked to resign. Magufuli again refused.

Kinana’s frustrations continued. He was reportedly unhappy with the way a committee set up following the December Congress and tasked with reviewing CCM’s assets had conducted investigations without involving him. He also took issue with how the CCM Central Committee (CC), in a break with party procedure and tradition, skipped the primary stage and instead directly nominated parliamentary candidates for two by-elections in January 2018. The CC’s decision was all the more controversial as it picked two outsider candidates who previously served as opposition MPs before defecting to CCM.

Given Kinana’s attitude, it came as no surprise when last week he again asked to resign, this time with Magufuli’s blessing. Having seemingly retreated into the background, Kinana handed over to someone with a very different profile and proven track record, i.e. someone more likely to actively pursue party reforms as laid out by Magufuli.

An unlikely replacement?

As rumours spread that Kinana was about to resign, several names of possible replacements began to circulate. These included Mwingulu Nchemba, former Deputy Secretary General and current Cabinet Minister, and Mizengo Pinda, former Prime Minister. Both Nchemba and Pinda previously contested against Magufuli for the 2015 CCM presidential nomination.

Contrary to these rumours, though, the SG job did not go to a high-profile politician or a long-serving party official. Rather, in what has become a trend with Magufuli’s appointments, the President picked a university academic with weak ties to the ruling party. Indeed, Dr. Ally Bashiru felt compelled in his first days in office to insist that he was, in fact, a CCM member. Although lack of experience in the party might normally be seen as a problem, in Magufuli’s CCM it is an advantage. The President himself was never a party official before assuming the role of Chairman and, as noted, has shown a preference for bringing new people in with him.

Aside limited experience in the party, though, Bashiru has something more positive counting in his favour. He was first put to the test after Magufuli appointed him chair of the above-mentioned committee charged with investigating CCM’s assets. While CCM owns various properties across the country, and should earn a steady revenue as a result, accountability is weak and many assets have been effectively privatised. The committee’s investigation was thus a first step towards recentralising control over the party’s considerable wealth, which could then strengthen its financial autonomy and bureaucratic organisation. Having led the investigation, Bashiru will now be in charge of the next step, namely overseeing the implementation of the committee’s recommendations.

He has shown every indication that he will be a reliable servant to his party chairman during what promises to be a contentious process—even if not openly so. He has already renounced views expressed in the past that go against the CCM line, notably regarding the need for a new national constitution. He has also insisted that he will not participate in “the politics of rallies” (siasa za jukwaani), leaving that to the party Chairman and elected politicians. He will instead, he insists, stick to the low-profile role befitting a public servant or bureaucrat.

By all accounts, Magufuli has found a pair of safe hands to go ahead with the reform effort, a person with no political stature, no connections, and a seemingly strong commitment to following the President’s lead.

Whither CCM?

With Bashiru as Secretary General, the undivided loyalty of the of CCM’s bureaucracy to the party Chairman appears assured, at least within the national secretariat. Should Bashiru then oversee the successful implementation of his committee’s recommendations, CCM may also benefit from additional revenues.

From Magufuli’s perspective, these are both highly desirable outcomes, particularly as Tanzania heads into another campaign season.  The local elections are due next year with parliamentary and presidential polls following in 2020. Given what recently happened with nominations for parliamentary by-elections, it is likely Magufuli will try to exert greater control over candidate selection than was previously the norm—at least in recent decades. He will also have to secure his own re-nomination as CCM’s presidential candidate. It is difficult to imagine how he could lose out, particularly as he was just endorsed with 100 percent of the vote at CCM’s party Congress last year. There are undoubtedly those within CCM who would like to see Magufuli ousted, but they face a serious coordination challenge, particularly when all the levers of power within the party are being taken out of their hands.

However, while Magufuli is unlikely to face outright opposition, either from within his own party or from a much-weakened official opposition, there is still one challenge he may struggle to overcome. His crack-down on factional politics, his introduction of outsiders to run day-to-day party operations and his efforts to curb the use of money in political campaigns could make mobilising for the next election and getting voters to the polls considerably more difficult. Indeed, internal party competition, opportunities to participate and advance through party ranks, and higher campaign spending are all linked to better mobilisation and turnout.

Again, neither Magufuli nor CCM are likely to lose in 2020. Far from it. But it may be worth remembering the lessons CCM—then the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU)—learned from an earlier round of elections. In 1960 and 1962, TANU won resounding victories, but with very low voter turnout. Consequently, these results suggested a “deceptive” form of dominance.[2] The report of Nyerere’s Presidential Commission (1965) noted, “By a paradox, the more support the people have given to TANU as a party, the more they have reduced their participation in the process of government.”[3]

At the time, the party opted to address what it saw as a serious problem by pursuing a new organisational strategy—including more popular participation, at least initially.[4] But if we are now headed for a similar paradox, a similarly “deceptive” dominance, it remains to be seen how the party leadership will address it, if indeed it feels the need to.


[1] Jakaya Kikwete, “Hotuba ya Mhe. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, Mwenyekiti wa Chama Cha Mapinduzi, Wakati wa Mkutano Mkuu wa CCM”, Dodoma, 23 July 2016.

[2] Henry Bienen (1974), Tanzania: Party transformation and Economic Development, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 58.

[3] Cited in William Tordoff (1966), “The general election in Tanzania”, Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 4:1, 47-64.

[4] From the 1960s, there were repeated—and often contradictory—efforts to reform TANU. These changes followed something of a pendulum swing, moving between more participation and more control. Bismarck Mwansasu (1979), “The changing role of the Tanganyika African National Union”, in Towards Socialism in Tanzania, ed. Bismarck Mwansasu and Cranford Pratt, Dar es Salaam: Tanzania Publishing House, 169-192.

Tanzania – Where President Magufuli’s political and economic strategy meet

This month, Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli marks two years in office. And what a two years it has been.

On the political front, observers have noted a pronounced authoritarian turn. Opposition party rallies have been all but banned.[1] Politicians, musicians and activists have been repeatedly detained and charged with various offenses. A growing number of newspapers have been shut down. One prominent opposition politician survived an assassination attempt. The list goes on.

Politics aside, Magufuli’s presidency has also left its mark on Tanzania’s economy. What defines the new strategy is only gradually emerging. It nevertheless involves a mix of high-profile anti-corruption measures, increased public spending on big infrastructure, an effort to reign in multinationals perceived to be exploiting Tanzania’s natural resources, and the apparent marginalization of Tanzania’s domestic private sector, to name but a few elements.

While analysts have reviewed Magufuli’s political and the economic interventions elsewhere, the aim of this post is to consider how they intersect. To what extent does Magufuli’s economic approach serve his political ends? What could we then infer about how his political aims may inform his economic management?

In what follows, I will point to ways in which Magufuli’s economic strategy supports the consolidation of the President’s own, quite fragile political base, and this by reducing the threat posed by the opposition camp and—perhaps even more dangerous—the threat coming from within CCM.

A note on ideology

First things first, by focusing on the political implications of Magufuli’s economic strategy, I in no way want to suggest that we can reduce his economic thinking to a purely political calculus.

Unpicking what broader ideology drives Magufuli is a tricky business.

Some liken his economic approach to “father of the nation” Julius Nyerere’s Ujamaa brand of socialism with its emphasis on state-led development and its principled commitment to greater socio-economic equality.

Other observers, less charitable in their assessment, refer to Magufuli’s tenure thus far as a “period of grand confusion, deep uncertainty, and incomprehensible eclecticism.”

Building on that last point, we probably won’t get very far by attempting to define Magufuli’s Ideology, capital ‘I’, as a coherent vision or doctrine. There is nevertheless a bundle of ideas, doubtless with its own internal contradictions, that underpins his economic interventions. A well-rounded study would consider these from at least three different angles, namely as a legitimating framework, a development strategy and, finally, a political strategy.

This post focuses more narrowly on the last element, how Magufuli’s ideas about running the economy interact with his political aims.  And here I will argue that, far from an “incomprehensible eclecticism”, there is a fairly consistent logic at work.

The pre-Magufuli political economy of Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi

To understand Magufuli and his “fifth phase” government, we must briefly situate it in relation to what came before.

The same ruling party—TANU, later rechristened CCM—has governed mainland Tanzania since Independence. Since 1985 when Nyerere stood down, there has also been a regular succession of presidents every ten years.

Despite this regularity, though, much has changed in Tanzania’s politics in recent decades.

As noted, President Nyerere first set Tanzania on a socialist path, favouring a state-led development strategy. Of particular significance was the relative marginalisation of the private sector, and especially leaders’ efforts to maintain a strict separation between business and politics. This economic approach had knock-on effects for the consolidation of Tanzania’s ruling party, which grew into one of the most highly institutionalized in the region. By limiting private sources of political finance, it helped Tanzania’s leadership ensure a more centralized distribution of patronage and thereby reinforced party cohesion and discipline.[2]

This political balance began to break down with the economic crises of the late 1970s, the liberalizing economic reforms of the 1980s, and ultimately, Nyerere’s retirement as President (1985) and Chairman of CCM (1990). As the private sector expanded, and as CCM lost access to state resources following the 1992 multiparty transition, the Party of erstwhile socialist renown acquired an altogether different reputation. Leaders at all levels grew increasingly entangled with a variety of business interests, resulting in the emergence of competing patronage networks within CCM.

These developments had profound effects both on the government’s economic management and on the internal politics of the ruling party. As factions grew stronger within CCM, they undermined party cohesion and discipline just as they weakened the government’s ability to develop a consistent economic policy and to check corruption. As Cooksey (2011) neatly summarises, ‘Within the ruling party, the use of rent-seeking of all types to advance the interests of groups of rentiers intent on taking control of the party has heightened pressures to loot the public purse and natural resource.’ Gray (2015) clarifies, ‘Neither the President nor any one particular faction could enforce its particular agenda within the ruling party.’

This was the status quo, at least up until CCM’s selection of a presidential candidate to contest in the 2015 general elections. And then something surprising happened.

Two rival factions, one headed by outgoing President Kikwete and another by his political ally turned rival, Edward Lowassa, knocked each other out of the nomination race. This left the path clear for a relatively low profile presidential aspirant to snatch the prize. That was Magufuli the Unexpected, to use the moniker assigned by one sharp-tongued blogger.

President Kikwete at first appeared satisfied with the result, having at least succeeded in marginalising Lowassa, who promptly defected to the opposition. Magufuli soon made it clear, though, that he would not be playing to anyone else’s tune. Rather, in a series of highly mediatised early moves as President, he launched an anti-corruption campaign and announced a series of new investments in infrastructure, health and education.

As he embarked on this new agenda, though, his political base was far from secure. One, he faced a threat from a newly emboldened opposition. More problematic still, he did not have the backing of a strong network within the ruling party itself. Rather, he had to contend with multiple rival factions, none of which were necessarily pleased with his new development zeal, of which there were both good and bad reasons to be critical.[3]

In what follows, I emphasise how Magufuli appears to have incorporated into his overarching economic approach a strategy to shore up his own political strength, and this by shifting the emphasis away from the private sector and back to a state-centred development focus. This shift helps limit the political finance available to the official opposition as well as oppositional factions within CCM whilst reinforcing Magufuli’s centralized control over resources.

Turning back the clock?

The President’s economic interventions have at times appeared to move in many different directions at once, not always with a clear plan behind them nor with consistent follow through.

But the renewed emphasis on privileging the state as a central actor in the economy is one point on which there does seem to be some consistency.

A recent World Bank report observed that Tanzania’s growth is currently supported by substantial government investment, notably in big infrastructure projects including a standard gauge railway, new roads, expanding the Dar port and an oil pipeline from Uganda.

Yet even as public-sector spending has increased, the private sector is getting squeezed.

According to the Bank report, this is due to a mix of government interventions, including cost-cutting measures that have hit the hospitality industry hard and a crackdown on tax evasion combined with various tax hikes.

Business associations and some prominent investors have called on the government to improve the business climate. They cite policy unpredictability, the ‘brutality’ of the Tanzania Revenue Authority, and low government spending as all negatively impacting business.

Another consequence of the overall downward trend has been a spike in the number of non-performing loans, which has in turn prompted banks to increase interest rates, adding a credit crunch to the already difficult conditions confronting business.

A recent report from the Bank of Tanzania helps clarify the extent of the slowdown. Annual growth in credit to the private sector, often used to assess private sector expansion, has plummeted from 25 percent in November 2015, the month Magufuli took office, to 1 percent in July 2017.

The political significance  

It is tempting to think that some of the private sector downturn, and certainly the credit squeeze, could be an unintended consequence. Yet it also serves a political purpose, one that has been pursued through more targeted efforts as well.

First, the limited private sector expansion means that private sources of political finance are growing scarce. As noted earlier, it is this private finance that—up till now—has contributed to the fragmentation of patronage networks within CCM and hence fuelled intra-party tensions. By extension, it is also this private finance that could pose a threat to Magufuli, who—it should be remembered—did not have a strong factional base when he took over the presidency.

Beyond this general observation, though, individuals linked to the opposition or rival factions in CCM have gone through an especially rough period recently. Particular entrepreneurs—notably aligned with Lowassa, among others—now face a range of charges from tax evasion to embezzlement. Although perhaps well-founded, the timing of these charges leaves room to wonder about a possible ulterior motive. The fate of these businessmen can certainly provide a useful signal to other potential political financiers, who one CCM politician described as “scared”, having “taken a position of wait and see.”[4]

Beyond closing the taps on private finance, Magufuli has also tried to build up a more centralized source of revenue within CCM, an attempt that supports his broader aim of ensuring greater party discipline.

Insisting he wants to ensure the Party’s independence from its erstwhile business backers, he has launched an audit of party funds, including a review of party-owned properties, many of which it is alleged had been ‘privatized’ by various CCM officials and politicians.[5]

The President, as party Chairman, has also sought to directly regulate excessive campaign spending and factional politicking within CCM. In the 2017 internal party elections, for instance, this effort included a strict ban on bribery and on the widespread practice known as ‘kupanga safu’, meaning to ‘line up’ in Swahili or, in this case, to assemble an informal slate of candidates within the Party. While it is unclear how successfully these bans were enforced, numerous internal election results were scrapped due to alleged malpractice.

In addition to this focus on CCM, the opposition’s sources of private finance—beyond Lowassa’s factional ties—have come under attack. Freeman Mbowe, Chairman of the leading opposition party CHADEMA, has been a persistent target. Property belonging to his company, Kilimanjaro Veggie Ltd (KVL), which is based in his Hai constituency, was allegedly damaged by the District Commissioner, whom Mbowe has dragged to court. More recently, Mbowe’s newspaper, Tanzania Daima, was banned, thereby cutting off another source of finance. Responding to these government actions, Mbowe has decried how, since the 2015 elections, “The wealth, land and even businesses of opposition leaders have been seized or nationalised.”

Where to from here?

I have argued that, whatever other ends Magufuli’s economic strategy may serve, it appears to be aimed at cutting off the sources of political finance on which his political opponents, both in CCM and the opposition, depend.

In this sense, the President’s economic interventions do not only evoke the Ujamaa era because of their state-centred development focus and more equitable resource distribution; they also harken back to that earlier period in so far as they prevent the consolidation of rival factions and thereby help to reinforce discipline within the ruling party.

These assertions aside, a few concluding caveats are in order.

I reiterate, by focusing on Magufuli’s use of economic tools to achieve his political ends, I am not suggesting these are the only ones at his disposal. He is also, for instance, pursuing a version of a “autocratic legalism”, i.e. “the use, abuse and non-use of the law in the service of the executive branch”.[6]

What’s more, the outcome of Magufuli’s economic gambit remains highly uncertain.

One, there are signs that Tanzania’s economy is struggling, yet the government is unwilling to consider this, instead making use of the Statistics Act (2015) to arrest and charge an opposition politician for questioning official GDP figures. Presumably Magufuli understands the political threat posed by an economic downturn and would prefer this topic stay off the table.

Two, politicians both within and outside of CCM are questioning the government’s current policy orientation. While for the most part these criticisms have remained subdued, last week’s debate in parliament over the proposed National Development Plan 2018/19 was unusually lively. “This Government doesn’t believe in the private sector,” accused one CCM MP, adding, “If we have returned to Ujamaa, tell us.” Other ruling party MPs went further, challenging inconsistencies in the government’s plans, questioning their viability, and accusing the Ministry of Finance of copy-pasting reports from one year to the next. The prospect of a rebellion from within CCM, while seemingly remote, is not altogether unfathomable. Certainly, there is dissatisfaction simmering under the surface.

Three, even as Magufuli pursues his anti-corruption drive, there are some potentially sensitive issues he seems unwilling to address. More generally, this raises questions about the extent to which he is temporarily weakening the “groups of rentiers” within CCM, leaving them to lie low only to re-emerge at a later date. There is also some suggestion that close allies of Magufuli are benefiting from his protection, implying he is simply building up a new network to bolster his own position.

Ultimately, to achieve his stated aims, whether economic or political, Magufuli needs nothing short of an economic transformation in Tanzania. Plenty of surprising things have happened in the first two years of his tenure. We’ll have to wait and see what he can manage in the time remaining.


[1] MPs can hold rallies in their own constituencies, but other public meetings are not allowed.

[2] See, for instance: Gray, 2015; Gray, forthcoming. This relationship is also explored in my PhD thesis.

[3] The reasons for criticising Magufuli were well-founded in so far as his economic approach appeared to be poorly coordinated, unilaterally imposed and potentially ineffectual in the long-run. These reasons could be seen as bad, by contrast, when they came from vested interests worried about their own poorly justified economic advantages.

[4] Interview with CCM politician, January 2016.

[5] See the speech he delivered when accepting the position of CCM Chairman: “Hotuba ya Mhe. Dkt. John Pombe Magufuli, Rais wa Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania na Mwenyekiti wa Chama cha Mapinduzi Kwenye Mkutano Mkuu wa Taifa wa CCM,” Dodoma, 23 July 2016.

[6] This “instrumental use of the law” was noted by an analyst of Kenyatta’s politics in neighbouring Kenya.

Tanzania – President Magufuli versus the investors

In a single day last week, shares in the Tanzania-focused gold miner Acacia mining plummeted, falling 30 percent.

This collapse came after a special presidential probe committee issued a report alleging that containers of mineral concentrates currently being held at the Dar es Salaam port contain ten times more gold than previously declared by Acacia. The committee report also identifies significant amounts of silver, cooper, sulphur and other “strategic minerals”.

It recommends that the Tanzania government reinforce its ban on mineral concentrate exports—first imposed last March—until the right royalties are paid to the State. It further stipulates that the government should ensure the construction of smelters to process the mineral sands and allow the identification of all minerals present in the concentrates.

Following the report’s release, President Magufuli quickly responded by extending a ban on the export of mineral concentrates. He also sacked his Minister of Energy and Minerals.

The committee’s recommendations, as well as Magufuli’s swift response, are consistent with the President’s stated commitment to a form of resource nationalism, which through increased revenue generation, is meant to help finance ambitious infrastructure projects and industrial expansion.

The report was applauded by domestic observers and politicians of all political stripes. There was strong enthusiasm for disciplining investors who have long been accused of exploiting Tanzania’s resources, either through illicit mineral smuggling or as a result of the unfair contracts and legal framework adopted under World Bank supervision in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Indeed, the latest actions taken by the Magufuli administration are testament to the distance travelled since former President Mkapa (1995-2005) asserted, “I get complaints that we are being too generous in legislating for this foreign direct investment in the mining sector, but we provide very serious security.”

There is still ample room to question, though, whether the Magufuli administration will be able to proceed with its current agenda. For one, Acacia vehemently contests the committee report’s findings regarding the amount of minerals in the containers due for export. Domestically, some politicians, including the CCM stalwart and former Attorney General Andrew Chenge, question whether plans to construct a smelter are financially viable. The opposition Chief Whip and current President of the Tanzania Law Society has also argued that, while the government is right to highlight the iniquitous nature of contracts with companies including Acacia, there needs to be a more fundamental reform of the legal and fiscal regime governing the mining sector before government can pursue the policies currently being proposed. He advised that, “[I]f we don’t abandon [unfair laws and contracts] first”, then international investors “are going to come back and we will pay big time.”

Acacia has already signalled it plans to suspend production at its two mines in Tanzania with many observers projecting a long, drawn-out legal battle in international courts. Tanzania’s Prime Minister, meanwhile, has recently sought to quell mining investors’ fears, promising “no one will be oppressed as your rights will be protected.” While this may not be a particularly reassuring statement in light of the actions already taken by government, it nevertheless suggests the Magufuli administration may be looking to tread more carefully going forward. What is more, the government is still awaiting a report from a second presidential probe committee. Whereas the first committee, the one that has already reported, was made up of geologists and scientists, the second is composed of economists and lawyers. It is tasked with assessing the financial and legal constraints faced by government and is expected to make policy recommendations accordingly.

Magufuli has shown his ambition to renegotiate Tanzania’s relations with foreign investors and, in so doing, to free the country from an exploitative relationship. For that, he is rightly applauded. But as has proved the case with many of the President’s actions to date, his latest efforts to gain the upper hand over mining investors demonstrate more brash self-assertion than strategic nous.

As some of his critics suggest, there is a need for a long game, one that involves difficult negotiations and fundamental legal reforms. Otherwise, the fire driving a resurgent resource nationalism could fizzle fast.




Tanzania – Is parliament waking up?

It is now old news that, since taking office in November 2015, President Magufuli has sought to reign in political dissent in Tanzania, be it from his own ruling party, opposition parties, the legislature, the media or private citizens. While many have denounced this authoritarian turn, there has been little by way of effective pushback.

That is starting to change.

It began with a dramatic show of strength from one of Magufuli’s close lieutenants, the Regional Commissioner for Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda. Speaking at a televised press conference, Makonda brandished a list of 65 individuals who he claimed were in some way implicated in the drug trade. The list included everyone from prominent businessmen to religious leaders to pop music celebrities to the Chairman of Tanzania’s largest opposition party. All the individuals named were ordered to report for questioning at the Dar es Salaam Central Police Station.

The order, and the highhanded way it was enforced, prompted an immediate outcry from those whose names appeared on the list. The denunciation did not stop there, however. For the first time since Magufuli took office, parliamentarians from both CCM and the opposition parties united, unanimously resolving to summon Makonda to appear before Parliament.

It seems Makonda had crossed a red line. First, he overreached by targeting—en masse—a group of well-connected individuals from both sides of the political spectrum. While the opposition has had to contend with systematic repression, and individual politicians have also come under fire, Makonda’s smear affected a large and diverse group of prominent individuals, which made a coordinated backlash that much easier.

Second, Makonda’s actions fed into growing tensions between parliamentarians and Regional and District Commissioners. While there have always been disputes over the respective powers of MPs versus Commissioners, these have grown more acute under Magufuli. This is because the President has relied on his administrative appointees to implement the government’s local development agenda, which has led to the political marginalization of parliamentarians. Given the opportunity to shift the balance, MPs were quick to pounce.

It is unclear what comes next. On the one hand, Makonda is in a bad way. Amidst a sustained outcry, rumours of forged academic qualifications, and allegations of ill-begot wealth, the Commissioner has lost some of his nerve. After breaking down sobbing during a church service, he is now rumoured to have left on a two-month vacation to South Africa.

But whereas Makonda could fade into the background, the real concern here is Magufuli. Many were—implicitly or not—critical of the President for his role in nurturing a political environment where an official of Makonda’s rank could issue such a seemingly outrageous order. At the same time, Makonda’s intervention stoked divisions within government and CCM, divisions which Magufuli appears at increasing pains to contain. Take, for instance, his recent appointment of the former First Lady, Salma Kikwete, to a parliamentary seat. This unprecedented move has fuelled a wave of speculation as commentators mull whether the no-nonsense President is making concessions to appease potential detractors within his own party.

Whatever the realty of this situation, things continue to move fast on the ground. This coming weekend, an extraordinary meeting of the CCM National Congress is set to approve sweeping reforms to the party constitution. These will see the elimination of more than half of National Executive Committee positions as well as new rules barring CCM and government leaders from holding more than one official post. The response to these reforms, and Magufuli’s ability to manage a situation where party patronage has been vastly reduced, remains to be seen.

Presidential Profile – John Pombe Magufuli: An outsider with an ambitious (and controversial) agenda

Presidential Profile

John Pombe Magufuli

Only one year in office and Tanzania’s new president, John Pombe Magufuli, has thoroughly divided opinions. To some, he is mchapakazi (a workhorse), tingatinga (a bulldozer), an anti-corruption crusader with a vision of how to propel Tanzania to middle-income status. To others, he is a “petty dictator”, an uncompromising taskmaster bent on quashing opposition parties and curbing civil liberties in the interests of “peace” and “development”.

Whichever side you fall on, it is undeniable that Magufuli’s presidency has sent shockwaves through Tanzania’s political system. Whether he will achieve the ambitious change he desires, rooting out entrenched politico-business networks and setting a path towards industrial transformation, is another matter. But whatever the outcome, his disruptive politics are a story in their own right, which begins with his improbable rise to the top.

The candidate from nowhere  

In 1985, when Tanzania’s first President Julius Nyerere retired from office, the long-ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) instituted a two-term limit, ensuring a transfer of power from one president to the next every 10 years. Since then, CCM’s presidential nominations have become increasingly competitive. Ahead of the 2015 general elections, a record 42 presidential aspirants entered the race to become the official nominee.

This competition is largely the result of growing factionalism, which reached a new high in 2015. The main cleavage was between the outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete and his former Prime Minister turned rival, Edward Lowassa.

Kikwete threw his weight behind several candidates, his top preference being his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Membe. Lowassa, meanwhile, mobilized a carefully cultivated network of supporters to rally behind his own bid for the nomination. Among the remaining presidential aspirants, many were rumoured to be “spoilers” fronted by one side or the other to split the vote in their favour.

The uncertainty surrounding the nominations fuelled a wave of intense speculation. But amidst the many lists of supposed top contenders, one name barely got a mention. Magufuli kept a low profile through the nominations process. Although a minister for 20 years, he never held an official position within CCM and steered clear of factional politics. He had a reputation as clean politician who kept his head down and got the job done. As Minister of Works under Kikwete, he attracted some attention due to his road-building zeal. But even so, he continued to be seen primarily as an effective technocrat.

In an ironic twist, the internal party divisions that Magufuli so scrupulously avoided ultimately helped catapult him to the top. President Kikwete manipulated the CCM nomination procedure, using the vetting powers of the party ethics committee to remove Lowassa’s name from the list of eligible aspirants. The CCM National Executive Committee, which contained a majority of Lowassa supporters, then retaliated by voting out Kikwete’s two preferred aspirants from a list of five pre-vetted candidates. The National Congress then voted overwhelmingly for Magufuli. The other two candidates, both women, were presumably seen to pose too great an electoral risk.

An unusual campaign

At the start of presidential campaigns, Magufuli faced several challenges.

The CCM brand had lost some of its lustre during the Kikwete years, in part due to repeated corruption scandals. At the same time, the opposition invested considerably in extending its organizational reach countrywide and, after uniting in a four-party coalition, seemed poised to make record electoral gains.

As a candidate, Magufuli was also weak. He had no support base of his own so relied on a campaign taskforce composed largely of close Kikwete allies. Moreover, he had to square off against Lowassa, who defected and became the candidate for the opposition coalition. Many Lowassa supporters left CCM with him while those who stayed were accused of backing his candidacy.

Magufuli responded by turning his reputation as a low-profile technocrat to his advantage. His stump speech promised an end to corruption and a renewed dedication to hard work. He contrasted his own integrity with Lowassa’s alleged history of backroom deals. In positioning himself as the anti-corruption candidate, he also distanced himself from business-as-usual under Kikwete, upon whose support he nevertheless continued to rely. He promised to serve the wananchi (ordinary citizens) and referred to former President Nyerere’s fiercely egalitarian politics as his guide.

The first 100 days

Magufuli won the 2015 election with 58 percent of the vote, the lowest ever for a CCM presidential candidate.

He immediately set about implementing a populist agenda. He declared his government would slash all wasteful expenditure and followed up by ordering an end to “unnecessary foreign travels” for government officials. He then announced that the $150m saved on air travel costs would be reinvested in road construction. A series of similar gestures then followed.

Weeding out corruption, or “bursting boils” to use Magufuli’s phrase, emerged as an equally important part of the campaign against waste. Weeks into his presidency, Magufuli launched a crackdown on “big businessmen”, directing Tanzania Revenue Authority Commissioner General, Rishad Bade, to target tax avoiders. His Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, later showed up at the TRA offices unexpected and suspended Bade while investigations were still pending into the disappearance of 349 shipping containers from TRA’s records. Again, these early moves were quickly followed by more suspensions, firings and threats from State House.

Magufli indicated his overriding aim was to eliminate corruption and ensure economic transformation through a soon to be revealed development plan. His shock-and-awe approach was also politically strategic, and this for two reasons.

First, it generated a wave of popular support. It also helped pre-empt any potential opposition from within CCM and government. Magufuli’s own political base was narrow at best, yet his actions threatened the entrenched patterns of rent-seeking that had come to define CCM politics. Amongst those allegedly opposed to the new President’s approach was his predecessor and erstwhile mentor, Kikwete. By acting swiftly, though, Magufuli could at least temporarily cow otherwise vocal opponents into silence. He was, arguably, further aided by the temporary confusion Lowassa’s defection caused within CCM. One of the party’s strongest factions was now in disarray and, without its leader, appeared suddenly powerless.

But those who had something to fear as a result of Magufuli anti-corruption crusade were not the only ones worried about the President’s new style.

The opposition and civil liberties

After taking office, Magufuli quickly imposed heavy restrictions on opposition parties.

The first, and most flagrant, breach of trust between President Magufuli and the opposition, particularly the Civic United Front (CUF) party, came after the chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission annulled the 2015 elections for the Zanzibari President and House of Representatives. While this initial decision had nothing to do with Magufuli, his subsequent unwillingness to intervene was heavily criticized by opposition actors. The elections were re-run in March 2016 amidst an opposition boycott, thus leading to an overwhelming victory for the long-time ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). What’s more, starting in September, the CCM government has exacerbated divisions within CUF after the Registrar of Political Parties repeatedly favoured one of two rival factions.

Tensions, meanwhile, have also grown between Magufuli and CHADEMA, Tanzania’s largest opposition party and the dominant player on the mainland. Through the Deputy Speaker, a lawyer appointed to Parliament by Magufuli, the President has seemingly tried to stifle opposition in Parliament. He has also effectively banned all opposition meetings outside of parliament, even internal party meetings. Individual politicians meanwhile, have repeatedly been drawn to court with some languishing for months in jail.

Opposition parties are not the only ones affected by the new strong-arm politics. Several Whatsapp users have been charged with insulting the President under the Cyber Crimes Act, a piece of legislation passed under Kikwete. A newly enacted Media Services Bill also promises a fresh set of restrictions on free expression while journalists have also found themselves under pressure.

The economy

Despite some impressive gains in revenue collection and cost cutting efforts, Magufuli’s economic management has raised serious concerns. His efforts to centralize control over wealth creation and to root out corruption and waste have, in many instances, had negative economic ramifications.

Some of these were perhaps unavoidable. Magufuli’s order that all government meetings be held in public offices, and not luxury hotels as was the norm, has hit the hospitality sector hard. But pouring government funds into rented conference space was, to begin with, perhaps not the best form of economic stimulus.

Other negative side-effects are, however, down to poorly conceived policy decisions. For instance, efforts to levy VAT and crack down on smuggling has led to a 800,000-tonne drop in cargo volumes going through Dar es Salaam port.

Whilst Magufuli’s push for rapid industrial expansion will depend on foreign investment, he has done little to boost investor confidence. In March, Magufuli declared he wanted a stop to the practice of ‘hiring generators’, admittedly a costly means of power generation. The Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) responded by denying having signed a contract with an American company, Symbion, responsible for managing a gas-fired power plant in Dar es Salaam. In January of this year, while addressing a crowd at a rally, Magufuli announced that he would cancel the operating license of a foreign mining company that had already invested $26m prospecting for nickel. This came after local officials had advised the President that the best location to develop a water project was within the area covered by the company’s license.

Perhaps most worrying, there is mounting concern of food shortages and possible famine due to drought. Magufuli has, however, refused to declare a famine, alleging that the supposed threat is a media and opposition fabrication.


Where to from here?

With the next elections due in 2020, it is still early days for the Magufuli presidency. And yet his time in office has already caused significant upheaval.

Given the severe restrictions on opposition parties, it is unclear whether they can bounce back and build on their 2015 electoral gains. Recent by-election results suggest they are in a weak position, as is to be expected.

Regarding Magufuli’s economic legacy, it is still too early to tell. Data on Tanzania’s macro-economic performance is mixed. Signs of a significant dip in growth rates may be attributable to the negative effects of drought on agricultural production while other sectors, like construction, are expanding, possibly thanks to the President’s commitment to infrastructural development. The success of Magufuli’s ambitious industrialization agenda will, nevertheless, require more than a fiscal stimulus.

Finally, there is the crucial question of Magufuli’s support within CCM. There are persistent rumours of tensions between Kikwete and Magufuli. At the same time, some argue that Magufuli has curbed his anti-corruption zeal, treading carefully around issues that may implicate leading CCM figures, including his predecessor.

An outsider at the start, Magufuli is still walking a political tightrope. While his desire to re-engineer a corrupt political settlement in Tanzania is laudable, success is far from assured. His methods too—a mix of repression and intimidation—leave much to be desired. As with much else in the world of 2017, these remain interesting times.

Tanzania – The long arm of the law in Magufuli’s Tanzania

Last March, after appointing a fresh cohort of 26 Regional Commissioners, President Magufuli offered some sobering advice to his new appointees: “You have the authority to jail people for up to 48 hours. Lock them up so that they learn how to respect you.” He then added, “Don’t be afraid to make decisions. It’s better you take decisions. Even if they are bad, they can be adjusted later.”

Six months on, the President’s instructions have not gone unheeded. Reports of apparent abuses perpetrated by both Regional and District Commissions keep multiplying. While not necessarily breaking the law, Commissions are making the most of the 48-hour rule, which Magufuli referenced. Enshrined in clause 15(2) of the 1997 Regional Administration Act, it stipulates that a Commissioner can order that any individual be put in custody without a charge for as long as two days if deemed likely to “disturb the public tranquillity.”

Commissioners are using these powers to “discipline” public servants and politicians, primarily local councillors. In one district, the Commissioner jailed two high ranking district officials for 12 hours, accusing them of failing to find funds to pay city street cleaners, as per the Commissioner’s orders. In another district, the Commissioner ordered the arrest of four local councillors from Tanzania’s leading opposition party, CHADEMA. The district council chairman—among those arrested—spent the night in jail. The Commissioner’s explanation: “Those [councillors] were messing up my visits to see the wananchi [people] and undermining government development efforts.”

These heavy-handed interventions—and the reasons invoked to justify them—raise questions about the precise responsibilities of a Regional or District Commissioner, beyond presumably preserving “public tranquillity.” According to the above-mentioned Regional Administration Act, District Commissioners are the “principal representatives of the government” within their area and, as such, “all the executive functions of Government […] shall be exercised by or through” them. They are responsible for maintaining “law and order,” for overseeing the implementation of government policies and, crucially, for “assisting” local government authorities, including by “ensuring compliance by all persons and authorities with appropriate Government decisions […].”

Whatever the circumstances, Commissioners clearly enjoy wide-ranging authority. Under President Magufuli, however, they are increasingly using the full breadth of their (loosely defined) legal powers. They are emerging as the local exponents of the President’s “Hapa kazi tu” agenda, justifying apparent excesses by invoking the developmental value of their work. Hence their actions against allegedly non-performing public servants and, most especially, their efforts to clip the wings of local councils and their elected members.

Councillors from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party have not been spared, also facing sanctions and arrests. But the bulk of the Commissioners’ interventions target opposition politicians and opposition-controlled councils. The most flagrant case is in Tanzania’s third largest city, Arusha, where the city council is under CHADEMA control. The District Commissioner, later promoted to Regional Commissioner, has been embroiled in an ongoing dispute with councillors for months after first announcing a drastic cut in their allowances and subsequently interfering with decisions made by the council. Tensions have also escalated between the Commissioner, Mrisho Gambo, and the Arusha city MP, Godbless Lema, also from CHADEMA. Lema has repeatedly accused Gambo of taking credit for development projects.

Top opposition leaders predictably condemn the Commissioners’ actions, and the apparent encouragement coming from the President. What is less clear is how leaders within Magufuli’s own party view Commissioners’ actions, and their growing prominence. On the one hand, many of Magufuli’s Commissioners are CCM politicians who lost out in the most recent elections. As such, they are themselves close to—or else part and parcel of—the ruling party. On the other hand, though, the Commissioners’ actions seem to pre-empt or substitute a development campaign led by the party itself, through its various structures. Under Magufuli’s predecessor—Jakaya Kikwete—, the CCM Secretary General undertook an energetic national tour aimed at restoring people’s faith in the party and its poverty-fighting agenda. That focus and vitality is currently absent from CCM, which if anything, appears temporarily paralyzed.

Magufuli, now party chairman, continues to warn fellow CCM leaders of a coming anti-corruption drive whilst promising a “new CCM” at public events. In the meantime, the President appears much more comfortable working with his appointees. As Commissioner Gambo faced increasingly sharp criticism in Arusha, it was Magufuli who called him personally on the phone to express his continued support.

Tanzania – Stalemate between President Magufuli and the opposition coalition deepens

After he first took office last November, President John Magufuli’s relations with Tanzania’s opposition coalition quickly deteriorated. In the past month, they have reached new lows, with many in the Tanzanian commentariat recalling the one-party era by way of comparison.

From bad to worse

The first, and most flagrant, breach of trust between President Magufuli and the opposition, particularly the Civic United Front (CUF) party, came after the chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission annulled the elections for the Zanzibari President and House of Representatives. While this initial decision had nothing to do with Magufuli, his subsequent unwillingness to intervene was heavily criticized by opposition actors. The elections were re-run in March of this year amidst an opposition boycott, thus leading to an overwhelming victory for the long-time ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). The Secretary General of CUF most recently called for Magufuli to be tried in an international court for crimes against humanity, referring to alleged police brutality following the 2015 elections.

Tensions, meanwhile, have also set in between Magufuli and CHADEMA, Tanzania’s largest opposition party and the dominant player on the mainland. Many in the opposition accused CCM of stealing the presidential election, asserting that CHADEMA candidate Edward Lowassa won against CCM’s Magufuli.  The opposition—united in a coalition known by the acronym UKAWA—went on to boycott Magufuli’s swearing in. Magufuli in turn ruffled feathers with a succession of interventions, which many interpreted as aimed at preventing the opposition in parliament—and parliament as an institution—from effectively challenging the executive. These included imposing his preferred candidate—a lawyer who had never served in parliament—as Deputy Speaker, halting highly popular live broadcasts of parliamentary debates, and intervening in the selection of parliamentary committee members. The opposition responded to this last move by refusing to elect chairs for the opposition-headed oversight committees, including the Public Accounts Committee. Opposition MPs also staged a series of noisy protests during House debates, which led to their forcible removal by the parliamentary guards as well as voluntary walkouts.

After the first parliamentary sitting finished in early February, a series of smaller scale confrontations occurred. Temperatures again rose sharply, however, with the beginning of the parliamentary sitting in late May. Opposition MPs quickly resolved to boycott sessions chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Tulia Ackson, whom they accuse of serving as Magafuli’s puppet, quashing parliamentary debate and contravening the House rules of procedure. With the Speaker away for medical treatment, Ackson has chaired the majority of recent debates. Opposition MPs have thus abandoned the House for much of the past month, during which time parliament debated the government’s annual budget. In addition to the MPs’ protest, CHADEMA also announced a countrywide tour to protest Magufuli’s leadership style. The party leaders accused the president of dictatorial tendency, citing the firing of civil servants without following due procedure and the abrupt expulsion of over 7,000 students from one of Tanzania’s public universities. The police responded to this plan by imposing an indefinite ban on political rallies for “security reasons.” On June 22, Magufuli issued a statement of his own, declaring a ban on all political activity (rallies, public meetings, etc.) until 2020, when the next elections are scheduled to take place. He justified this move in the name of “development,” declaring, “We can’t allow people to politicize each and everything, every day. When will the people work and build the nation?”

Magufuli has since reaffirmed his stand, adding that he was elected to fulfill certain electoral promises, and he cannot tolerate any political obstacles to achieving this aim. In addition to targeting opposition activities generally, individuals have also been singled out for “insulting” Magufuli. One Arusha resident was found guilty of insulting the President on his facebook page and sentenced to three years in jail. A second man has since been charged with insulting Magufuli via Whatsapp. Meanwhile, an opposition MP spent a night in jail after he was arrested, seeming because he referred to Magufuli as a “petty dictator.”

Why the democratic backsliding?

President Magufuli’s “style of leadership” certainly differs from his predecessor’s. While in office, Jakaya Kikwete positioned himself as a democrat. Often his commitment seemed largely rhetorical, but even so, parliament became more assertive under his watch while opposition parties were left to conduct their activities in relative freedom. This raises the question, why the abrupt authoritarian reversion under Magufuli?

One possible reason is the unprecedented level of inter-party competition during the last general elections. Following the 1992 reintroduction of multiparty politics, CCM has won presidential and parliamentary elections by very comfortable margins. In 2015, however, the leading opposition presidential candidate managed to win 40% of the vote. While this official result was still a long way from Magufuli’s 58%, it came after a particularly bruising campaign. It was also a distinct improvement over the opposition’s previous peak performance at 27% in 1995 and 2010 and a far cry from the opposition lows in 2000 and 2005 when the leading presidential candidates garnering only 16% and 11% respectively.

While observers have associated rising inter-party competition with increased political tensions in other dominant party states, this factor alone does not explain the current situation in Tanzania. A second reason could be the opposition’s growing predilection for showmanship and stonewalling. Its boycott of much of this year’s budget session in parliament has certainly left some observers unimpressed. Reports that opposition MPs are now refusing to speak to or socialize with CCM MPs also suggest a particularly pernicious partisan polarization. Yet it is hard to blame the opposition when many of their actions are in fact reactions to executive interference.

This brings us to Magufuli. Since taking office, he has pursued an aggressive anti-corruption campaign, firing high ranking bureaucrats suspected of corrupt activities, slashing excess government expenditure and pushing for improved revenue collection. The flip side of this singular focus has been an apparent unwillingness to tolerate political opposition or, indeed, institutional checks-and-balances. Parliament as a whole, not just opposition MPs, has suffered the consequences. Indeed, CCM legislators also echo opposition concerns, accusing the Deputy Speaker in particular of bending House rules and limiting time for debate so as to render it meaningless. Under the circumstances, some argue that their time is better spent watching football in the parliamentary canteen rather than attending sessions.

Finally, we may ask, where is CCM—the ruling party—in all of this? To date, measures taken against the opposition have originated with the executive, coming directly from the President, his ministers, or the security forces. Magufuli, meanwhile, has yet to take over from Jakaya Kikwete as party chairman. His relations with many party stalwarts, moreover, remain ill defined. There was much speculation that CCM insiders were trying to manoeuvre to postpone the transfer. A recent extraordinary Central Committee meeting convened to put an end to this uncertainty, setting a date for the transfer to take place later this month. Magufuli did not attend the meeting, however, something which surprised many.

Development over democracy?

Ultimately, Tanzania’s new President is showing the power of his office by rewriting the rules of the game, seemingly single-handedly. His vision is one of development first, which in this case seems to imply sacrificing democracy. Incidentally, Magufuli and Kagame have repeatedly expressed their admiration for each other. But Tanzania under Magufuli is no Rwanda. Despite some notably early successes, not least his cost cutting efforts, Magufuli has also overseen some costly blunders. For instance, the snap decision to ban all sugar imports while simultaneously attempting to impose a price ceiling on sugar produced domestically had the bizarre effect of undercutting Tanzanian traders, producers and consumers alike. Although a parliamentary committee warned of a looming sugar scarcity, it went unheard.

Magufuli has ambitions to oversee a transformative industrialization process in Tanzania. But rather than there being some trade-off between these developmental aspirations and the country’s democratic growth, the evidence so far suggests the executive would benefit from a more consultative approach that allowed for opposition critique and parliamentary oversight. Yes, this tolerance comes with certain costs, but so does authoritarian intransigence.


Tanzania – President Magufuli’s first months in office

This is a post by Michaela Collord

Hapa kazi tu! Straight to work! Such was the slogan used by Tanzania’s newly elected President, John Pombe Magufuli, on the campaign trail. After nearly five months in office, Magufuli certainly has made an impression.

His anti-corruption campaign and no-nonsense governing style have sent his popularity soaring. At home, he is being compared to Tanzania’s founding father, Julius Nyerere, a figure of almost mythic proportion. Abroad, Magufuli has also won over a following, not least Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. Long seen as an ascetic hard worker in his own right (albeit one with strong authoritarian tendencies), Kagame is now openly emulating his fellow East African leader’s cost-cutting zeal.

Other observers are more cautious, wondering whether this one-man ‘bulldozer’ can address Tanzania’s entrenched development challenges, many of which are deeply political in nature. Still more are concerned at the worrying signs that political freedoms in Tanzania are being suppressed.

Magufuli’s actions so far send mixed signals, some inspiring and others decidedly less so.

From sweeping streets to ‘bursting boils’

From Day 1, Magufuli has positioned himself as an energetic populist. He quickly made it clear his government would slash all wasteful expenditure. He surprised many by ordering an end to ‘unnecessary foreign travels’ for government officials, declaring that the $150m saved on air travel costs would be reinvested in road construction. He also cancelled Tanzania’s Independence Day celebrations, instead showing up in front of State House wielding a broom and calling on fellow citizens to participate in a collective environmental cleanup. Money saved from the scaled down inaugural ceremony for MPs’ was later diverted to buy hospital beds. Perhaps most surprising of all for many was that new beds did indeed appear and road construction is underway. At the same time, some are feeling the pinch. Restaurants and bars in Dar es Salaam are noticeably quieter of late, with many speculating that cash strapped civil servants are staying home after Magufuli put a stop to their paid meetings, extra fuel allowances and other perks.

Weeding out corruption, or ‘bursting boils’ to use Magufuli’s phrase, has been an equally important part of the overall campaign against government waste. Weeks into his presidency, Magufuli made a surprise visit to Muhimbili National Hospital, firing the Director and dissolving its Board. He also promised a crackdown on ‘big businessmen’, directing Tanzania Revenue Authority Commissioner General, Rishad Bade, to target tax avoiders. His Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, later showed up at the TRA offices unexpected and suspended Bade while investigation are ongoing into the disappearance of 349 shipping containers from TRA’s records. Senior officials at the Tanzania Port Authority, responsible for handling the containers, were also suspended.

Magufuli and his ministers, many of whom are seen as technocrats, have kept up the pressure with a series of high profile firings and reappointments. They have also expanded beyond government. For instance, PM Majaliwa has revoked ownership of large tracts of unused farmland, some of which is owned by highly placed political figures as well as businessmen. He has promised the land will be redistributed to local peasants.

On another front, the government is trying to push through a series of ambitious policy measures. In his inaugural address to parliament, Magufuli promised free primary and secondary education. The government is also pushing local councils to improve infrastructure to ensure enough classrooms for students. Magufuli has sought to further ease pressure on the average Tanzanians’ pocketbook by directing the state-owned energy-generating company to cut connection fees and tariffs, measures which should also incentivize more Tanzanians to connect to the grid.

Despite a succession of what look like encouraging moves, Magufuli’s style, which seems to capitalize on surprise, has left many wondering what the overall plan may be. So far, directives seem to come straight from the President or his ministers. In several instances, this approach has resulted in rapid decisions while consultations only follow after affected parties voice their dismay. Individual ministers and other government officials have been criticized for their seemingly imperious unilateral decisions. Opposition parties as well as the Commission for Human Rights have decried, in particular, the firing of civil servants without the due process to which government employees have a right. More recently, Prime Minister Majaliwa was singled out by doctors, who complain that they are being stigmatized as a result of his call to fire medical workers caught taking bribes.

There are also concerns about the economic implications of some of the government’s measures. On the one hand, revenue collection is up, the shilling is strengthening again after a precipitous slide and there is genuine optimism that corruption and underperformance amongst government officials is in decline. On the other hand, some argue that Magufuli’s policies could make for an uncertain investment climate, or else could lead to excess government spending.

Perhaps more serious than this, there is the very real concern that if Magufuli is to consolidate his bold gestures into a long-term, coherent agenda, he will need to ensure broad support beyond his inner cabinet circle. This involves taming the rent-seeking, factional tendencies within his own party.

Is his party with him?

Analysts argue that widespread corruption and economic stagnation In Tanzania have much to do with the internal politics of the long-time ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). In recent decades, competing factions have increasingly divided the party, hindering its ability both to control corruption and to implement a coherent economic policy agenda. As Brian Cooksey argues, ‘within the ruling party, the use of rent-seeing of all types to advance the interests of groups of rentiers intent on taking control of the party has heightened pressures to loot the public purse and natural resources.’ Hazel Gray meanwhile underscores how, despite CCM’s strong formal institutional and appearance of centralized authority, ‘neither the president nor any one particular faction could enforce its particular agenda within the ruling party.’

There is a possibility that Magufuli is well positioned to impose discipline within the party in a way his predecessors could not. For one, Magufuli’s path to the presidency has left him relatively unencumbered by the kind of political baggage that has hampered his predecessors. He built his reputation as a competent, largely scandal-free minister, who most people discounted out of hand during CCM’s hotly contested presidential nomination struggle. One major reason for this was Magufuli’s lack of a strong mtandao, the Swahili word used to refer to the opaque political networks behind successful candidacies within CCM. And yet he emerged the surprise winner after two rival factions, one headed by then President Jakaya Kikwete and another by his former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, dealt each other a mutual, knockout blow.

A second factor that could play in Magufuli’s favour is the exit, or at least temporary silencing, of the faction within CCM associated with Lowassa. After losing out on his nomination bid, the former PM left the party to become the opposition presidential candidate during last year’s general elections. Politicians who were known to support Lowassa, and yet remained within CCM, are now being made to denounce their former ally while others have been threatened with the prospect of expulsion from the party. Meanwhile, members of the Tanzanian business community who backed Lowassa now find themselves in a very precarious position, with some reports of businessmen taking their operations abroad. Senior officials within CCM have suggested that, far from weakening the party, the fall from grace of one of its strongest factions could actually help restore unity, at least temporarily.

Another important point in his favour is that Magufuli himself has made an accurate diagnosis of the political challenge ahead of him. When delivering his inaugural address before Parliament, he identified two obstacles to achieving his development aims: ‘leaders like us in here and crooked, deceptive businessmen.’ Unlike his predecessors, who have made similar observations, Magufuli is showing signs of actually following words with action, notably through his crackdown on tax avoidance. He is also set to take over as CCM Chairman later this year and, along with the reform minded Secretary General, has hinted at a political cleanup in the 2017 internal party elections.

Finally, Magufuli’s popularity since taking office also makes it more difficult for any political opponents within the party to criticize him openly.

Each of these apparent advantages has its downsides, though. Magufuli’s lack of a strong network coming into office makes him vulnerable as much as it frees him from costly political debts.  Discussions with some insiders have pointed to a potential isolation within the party, something which may not be helped by his tendency to appoint technocrats to key positions, or by his promise of an aggressive crackdown on political financiers and corrupt politicians alike. The purge of Lowassa supporters in the party, which former President Kikwete is leading, also shows signs of creating more divisions rather than restoring unity.

Ultimately, it is unclear how Magufuli—or anyone else—could do away with the entrenched cronyism that has come to characterize CCM. Since the 1980s and 1990s when first economic liberalization saw the party lose control over parastatals and then political liberalization cut its lucrative government funding, CCM has grown to depend on financial support from the private sector, which it then rewards through government tenders, tax breaks, and other kickbacks. This state of affairs is what has helped fuel party fragmentation across rival clientelist networks, as observed by Cooksey and Gray earlier in this piece. While Magufuli appears to have a window of opportunity to reign in rent-seeking within CCM, and deliver substantive development gains in the process, it is unclear how long his agenda can endure without a relapse into the old way of doing politics.

Political dissent under Magufuli

Whatever one may think of Magufuli’s development agenda, political tolerance and a faith in institutional checks and balances do not appear to be among his main qualities.

Regarding the opposition, Magufuli has been loath to intervene in a series of political stand-offs since he became President. Admittedly they were not of his making, but he showed no sign of wanting to contribute to their solution. Most obviously, he has refused to intervene over the political impasse in Zanzibar, which emerged following the decision by the chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission to annul the results from last year’s elections. This move appears to have been motivated by a strong opposition performance in the polls. A rerun election was held in Zanzibar on March 20, but with the main opposition party boycotting the polls, CCM made a clean sweep amidst record low turnout. In the lead-up to this latest vote, rumors spread of police violence against opposition sympathizers, buildings belonging to both CCM and opposition supporters were torched and a critical journalist was kidnapped. Many fear more unrest ahead.

Magufuli also refused to heed opposition calls for him to address the stand-off over the mayorial elections in Dar es Salaam, which the opposition accused CCM of trying to rig.

Regarding Parliament, concern that the government was trying to control the legislative body surfaced shortly after Magufuli took office. He nominated lawyer, who had previously served as Deputy Attorney General, to become MP. She subsequently contested and won the position of Deputy Speaker, despite no prior experience in parliament, bar a brief stint in the Constitutional Assembly. Many interpreted this move as an effort to install a government watchdog in the House. Tensions rose again after the opposition found its strongest members were kept off the most powerful parliamentary committees. It appears the executive had a hand in lobbying the Speaker over the composition of these committees. The opposition has developed a confrontational style in the house; however, the decision by one of the parliamentary chairmen to have the entire opposition side forcibly removed by the parliamentary guards was a further low point for that institution. The opposition standoff was triggered by a government announcement that the public broadcaster would stop live broadcasts of parliamentary debates.

In recent years, the Tanzanian Parliament has become more assertive. It has refocused the political agenda by helping to reveal corruption scandals and by strongly criticizing elements of the government annual budget. However, as one CCM MP noted, ‘I don’t think the President is going to be so submissive to the Parliament again.  Actually, we have very clear evidence he wants to control it. So he won’t be driven by the parliament but he will want to drive it.’

Magufuli has certainly brought a new energy to government in Tanzania, and with it, a genuine sense of optimism, which should not be dismissed. Indeed, his push for more accountability and government investment in social services is already bearing fruit. As we move forward though, tensions within his own party, and its crony politics, could pose a serious challenge to his administration. His negligent handling of opposition, meanwhile, is already feeding into a deepening political stalemate in Zanzibar while his apparent aversion to legislative criticism threatens to impoverish political debate.