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Tanzania Opposition Calls Off Day of Defiance Protest

FILE - John Pombe Magufuli, president of Tanzania.

Tanzania’s main opposition Chadema party has called off Thursday’s “Day of Defiance” protest against the government of President John Magufuli.

The police had declined to grant permission for the protest, accusing Chadema of trying to disturb the peace of the nation. Also, there were fears the protest could result in violence.

Protest against President Magufuli postponed

Peter Msigwa, a Chadema Member of the Parliament, said the protest was not cancelled but rather postponed after Tanzania’s spiritual leaders agreed to mediate between the government and Chadema.

“Actually it’s not canceled. We just postponed it for another one month because yesterday spiritual leaders decided to meet with our team to try to be a mediator between us and the government because they feel that they needed to the president before we continue with our plan.”

Government accused of being close to a dictatorship

Msigwa said the protest was called for Tanzanians to come together to demand the rule of law in the country because the president does not respect the constitution.

President Magufuli, who came to power in 2015, gained popularity domestically and throughout Africa for his war against corruption and inefficiency in government.

Magufuli's reforms

Some of the president’s reforms have included cutting unnecessary government spending and firing unproductive government employees. He visited a hospital unannounced and fired management and the board after being appalled by the conditions he found there.

Magufuli fired the entire management at the port of Dar es Salaam for its mismanagement. He also cancelled independence anniversary celebrations and directed that the money be used for health services, and cut foreign trips by government officials, saying ambassadors can do the work.

Opposition says reforms have come at the expense of democracy

But Msigwa said the president’s international image is cosmetic. Domestically, he said Magufuli’s leadership style is intolerant of the views of those who disagree with him.

Msigwa said the president cannot fight corruption or grow the economy at the expense of democracy and human rights in the country.

“We cannot stop corruption at the expense of democracy; we cannot restore the growth of our nation at the expense of human rights; at the expense of good governance. What we are asking from him is good governance, democracy and human rights,” Msigwa said.

Msigwa said the nation's spiritual leaders have asked the opposition to give them at least two to three weeks to meet with President Magufuli. But he said if the spiritual leaders come back to say the president has refused to meet, then the demonstrations will resume.

He disagreed with the police for saying the opposition is trying to disturb public peace.

“The police are using that we are disturbing peace as a political gimmick, but in reality we are not causing any trouble in the country. It’s a peaceful demonstration that we are trying to do. We are challenging the president that actually he’s not leading our country according to our constitution. He’s leading us in a dictatorial way, Msigwa said.