POLITICAL analysts have welcomed the government’s stance on Uhuru Torch Race, snubbing critics’ repeated calls to abandon the race.
For many years, opposition parties in particular have been pushing for the ban of the Uhuru Torch Race, which they dismiss as total misuse of taxpayers’ money. But, President John Magufuli, speaking at the torch’s extinguishing ceremony in Zanzibar over the weekend, vowed “Uhuru Torch is here to stay.”
He hit back at critics of the Torch race, which he said remains relevant to Tanzanians, considering its role in unifying the nation and stimulating socio-economic development around the country.
In separate interviews yesterday, political scientists supported the president’s stance saying the critics of the race were purely missing the point and their thinking is myopic in nature.
University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) Senior Lecturer Bashiru Ally argued that the Uhuru Torch is a national symbol that deserves protection by all Tanzanians regardless of their political inclinations.
“Uhuru Torch is the symbol that unifies all Tanzanians... that is why the president tried in his speech to explain to all Tanzanians the history of the country and the logic behind the torch,’’ he said.
Dr Ally underscored the need for all political parties to unite in support of the national symbols, urging Tanzanians to support Dr Magufuli in his quest to unite the nation. Another UDSM Senior Lecturer of Political Science and Public Administration, Dr Benson Bana, described the president’s stand on the Uhuru torch as candid.
“There is no any country in the world that has no symbols and it is these symbols that unite and mobilise people,” he said. He dismissed the opponents of the torch, saying they have myopic ideas and lack reasonable agenda.
“The president’s vow to defend the Uhuru Torch was timely,’’ he added. The 2017 Uhuru Torch race climaxed on Saturday after running in 31 regions and 195 councils, with inspection and launch of 1,512 development projects valued at 1.1trn/-.
Dr Magufuli presided over the torch’s extinguishing ceremony at the Amaan Stadium and used the event to respond to critics questioning its relevance to Tanzanians in the modern era.
He gave three reasons in defence of the Torch race, at least during his tenure in office, insisting that the Torch is more relevant today than ever.
“The Uhuru Torch is the national symbol that promotes development; unites Tanzanians and strengthens our union; it also symbolises freedom and light... during my tenure and Dr (Ali) Shein, the Uhuru Torch race will be sustained,” he vowed.
UDSM lecturer, Alexander Makulilo said the relevance of the torch was the most important thing especially on unity and projects that ought to be launched during the race. He lashed out at a section of politicians opposed to the torch on cost grounds. “The issue of cost is immaterial, the most important thing is its relevance.’’
Mr Elijah Kondi, also UDSM lecturer, said there was no way the Uhuru Torch Race could be scrapped, arguing that the torch represents the nation.
In Zanzibar, President Magufuli received a report from the Torch Race National Leader, Mr Amour Hamad Amour and promised to work on all the suggestions. The event coincided with the commemoration of the death of Mwalimu Nyerere, 18 years ago.
Yesterday, President Magufuli pledged to work on all the proposals in Amour’s report.
“During the race, I was following up on the projects that you were visiting and the directives that you were issuing… I want to assure you that we will act on all areas you raised queries,’’ assured the president at a luncheon with the torch runners. Dr Magufuli flew back to Dar es Salaam from Zanzibar yesterday.