By Jaston Binala.
The month of July, 2018 will probably go into Tanzania’s history as month of a rare kind of presidential guidance. Retired Presidents, retired Prime Ministers, Chief Justices and retired Speakers of the National Assembly met during the first week of the month Tanzania’s sitting President to share insight into running the largest nation in East Africa.
“In the history of this country, this is the first time retired leaders at this level have held a meeting with the President. I therefore congratulate you Honourable President for that decision,” one of Tanzania’s retired chief justices in attendance, Judge Barnabas Samatta told President John Pombe Magufuli at the State House meeting in Dar es Salaam.
This was not the first time the President had arranged a meeting with important retired leaders in the country. A similar meeting was held at State House in Dar es Salaam about 10 months ago with retired and active duty senior Defence and Security personnel.
But this meeting carried different weight. This was a definite effort at sharing experience and obvious guidance; guidance suggested for the first time in 2016 by Kingunge Ngombale Mwiru, a senior member of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party.
The late Kingunge Ngombale Mwiru, who spent many years of his life at State House guiding sitting Presidents, briefly defected to the opposition Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) during the 2015 general elections, and witnessed first hand post-elections political tension as felt by the opposition. The fear of police brutality was in the air.
Kingunge called a press conference in August 2016 and suggested a meeting between the Tanzania President and elderly retired Presidents, retired Prime Ministers and others be held for consultations in effort to defuse political tension.
Those in attendance at the July 3, 2018* State House meeting included former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin William Mkapa, former Vice Presidents John Malecela and Mohamed Ghalib Bilal.
Others included former Prime Ministers Edward Lowassa and Frederick Sumaye now senior members of the opposition party CHADEMA, and retired Prime Minister Joseph Warioba. Former National Assemby speakers Pius Msekwa and Anne Makinda were also present.
Retired chief justices Barnabas Samatta and Augustino Ramadhani advised the President with repeated emphasis the need for Tanzania to be administered through the rule of law– although it was equally important that bills are scrutinized with great care before they are tabled in parliament to become law, to be sure they do not infringe of individual rights.
Care was necessary because it is possible to enact bad laws, retired Chief Justice Barnabas Samatta said. He also expressed concern some district commissioners were making utterances which were not based on the law.
“There are times when I watch TV—when I listen to orders that are being given by some leaders, especially DCs, I sometimes ask myself, where is the law?” Samatta told the President.
Retired Chief Justice Augustino Ramadhani advised the President and his entire executive branch to exercise justice in what they do because peace in the country is the fruit of justice.
“If there will be justice there will be no problem; there will be peace,” retired Chief Justice Augustino Ramadhani said. “If justice shall weaver, even just slightly, this will bring fear [of absence of peace]. The English have a saying Hon. President…take care of the pennies; the pounds will take care of themselves…. If you observe justice, peace will come by itself.
“And now as we speak about observing justice, we address all levels [of leadership]; starting with you–implement justice. Come to the ministers, to the regional commissioners, come to the DCs; and every level. Implement justice,” Justice Ramadhani advised.
Retired Prime Minister Edward Lowassa said peace was critically important in Tanzania but warned there were people making ‘unweighed’ utterances which may threaten peace. He called for care on what is being uttered.
The former National Assembly Speaker Anne Makinda discouraged leaders to constantly announce what was being said was from the President. She advised any new government directives to be entered into the “General Orders” in addition to what she knows already exists. It is wrong to always refer to the President [on directives] because the President is human, she said: “There are standards…orders should be written; if there are things you think are new, these should be entered there.”
Former President Alli Hassan Mwinyi, Former Prime Minister Cleopa Msuya, and retired Deputy President Mohamed Ghalib Bilal Praised President Magufuli on various positive aspects of his leadership. Mwinyi commended President Magufuli for his ‘iron fist’ tendency towards leadership.
The former President, popularly known as ‘Mzee Ruksa’ (Mr. Be Free) said he ruled Tanzania without the strictness former President Nyerere had asked him to apply but in the end a number of things didn’t go right. “We were too free,” Mwinyi said. “Freedom is undoubtedly a good thing, but too much freedom brings chaos.”
*Apology: The State House meeting took place on July 3, 2018 and not on July 2 as mistakenly reported earlier. The website apologizes for the mistaken date.