On Tuesday, Tanzania’s parliament passed amendments to ‘The Political Parties Act 2018’ that give sweeping powers to a government-appointed registrar over political parties, a move that opposition legislators say will cement “one-party rule”
“You can’t have a constitution that allows freedom of association then give someone powers to revoke that freedom of association,” Zitto Kabwe, the leader of the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party, said in parliament late on Tuesday after unsuccessfully seeking a court injunction to try to block parliament from passing the law.
Critics say the amendments will sharply curb freedoms in the East African nation and prevent an effective challenge to Magufuli and the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party in next year’s general election and this year’s local elections.
Another opposition MP, Esther Bulaya, said the legislation would give the registrar of political parties “excessive powers” to interfere with internal affairs of political parties, including stripping individuals of party membership and removing them from leadership positions.
Some of the sweeping powers the government-appointed registrar now welds include powers to de-register parties and provide for up to a year in jail for anyone engaging in unauthorized civic education – for example, a voter registration drive.
Already signs of an oppressive state is visible and promise of ‘hard times’ to come are showing up.
President John Magufuli’s government has already banned some newspapers, restricted opposition rallies and detained dozens of their members which, along with repeated state intervention in key sectors like mining and agriculture, have dimmed investment in the region’s third-biggest economy.
Since coming to power in 2015, President John Pombe Magufuli, once a darling of foreign investors and seen as a reformer, quickly started cracking down on Human rights activists, opposition leaders and the media much to the West’s chagrin.
Late last year, the European Union recalled its head of delegation in the country, Mr. Roeland van de Geer, "to discuss the situation in Tanzania".
The latest developments adds to growing fear that Tanzania is slowly sliding back to authoritarian ages.
In 2017, a politician from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Laurence Mabawa, started a social media campaign dubbed “Baki Magufuli” (Stay Magufuli).
Just weeks prior to Mr Nkamia’s motion, another MP Stephen Ngonyani said President Magufuli should rule for 20 years. It’s not just MPs alone who want President Magufuli to serve for eternity.
In April 2017, former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi said that a law allowing President Magufuli to extend his tenure in office for four terms should be considered.
The opposition Chadema party believes the president is behind the campaign that is gaining momentum but Dr. Magufuli has repeatedly said at public rallies that he would respect the Constitution and step down after serving his two terms in office.
The latest amendments to ‘The Political Parties Act 2018’ only adds fear that the “Baki Magufuli” campaign may actually be more than just a mere campaign and Magufuli is slowly but surely laying the foundation to become a lifetime president, only time will tell.