HomeOpinion & AnalysisMagufuli and the return of the Big Man syndrome

Magufuli and the return of the Big Man syndrome


TANZANIANS went to vote on October 28, elections which returned the incumbent President John Pombe Magufuli and his Chama Cha Mapinduzi party to power for another five years. Magufuli’s re-election, however, according to independent observers, cannot be said to be free and fair or pass the credibility test.

In the run up to the election, opposition and human rights groups said Magufuli cracked down on critical voices, closed media outlets and prevented the opposition from holding campaign rallies.

All institutions critical to regulating the conduct of elections are compromised, with no independent electoral commission and courts that would normally arbitrate disagreements. Magufuli also turned away foreign independent observer missions and some of the most respected domestic election observers.

In its preliminary report on the polls, the Tanzania Election Watch says: “the 2020 electoral process presented significant security challenges, particularly because of the high-handed nature with which State security agents executed their mandate during the electoral period. The conduct of the security forces created a climate of fear and intimidation prior to, and during the election day itself”.

“Reports of arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, sexual violence, torture, outright intimidation of opposition candidates and their party agents and violence against women have raised questions on the role of the security forces as provided under Article 147 of the United Republic of Tanzania Constitution.”

Magufuli’s main challenger, Tundu Lissu, was shot 16 times in 2017 and the case remains unsolved.
Among foreign missions, the United States referred to “reports of systematic interference in the democratic process” during the election.

It said the irregularities included the use of force against unarmed civilians, pre-ticking of ballots, the detention of opposition officials and restrictions on political party agents to access polling stations.

Since his election for the first term, Magufuli has evolved from being the great hope of democracy in a region that has seen precious little of such to something approaching a dictator and his governance style turned into one of intolerance and populism. Apart from harassing the opposition, he also curtailed space for their operations, including that of the media and civic groups, which he followed up by closing the internet.

His approach is being compared to that of Uganda’s grand old man of politics, Yoweri Museveni.

Some have linked him to Zambia’s Edgar Lungu and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who have simply veered to the extremes since assuming office.

So, the southern Africa region is falling back into the hands of a group of leaders who are eschewing democratic principles and the Big Man syndrome is coming back in full force.
Cry the beloved continent.

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