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‘Magufuli tells off Makonda’

“MAGUFULI tells off Makonda” was the big news item carried by both the print and electronic media last week, on Friday 31st August, 2018.

The media was responding to an event which had taken place on the previous day, when President John Pombe Magufuli, in his speech delivered at a meeting of public leaders and civil servants in Chato District.

He had also referred to the apparent dispute regarding 20 containers imported into the country by Dar es Salam, Regional Commissioner (RC), Paul Makonda, who was required to pay taxes on these imports, but had refused to do so, claiming that he was entitled to tax exemption for the said imports, allegedly because they were intended for distribution to schools in Dar es Salaam.

The President’s verdict in the matter, was reported by the ‘DAILY NEWS’ as follows: “President John Magufuli yesterday closed the 20 containers tax dispute at the Dar es Salaam Port, ordering payment to be made of all the requisite taxes and duties as the law demands”.

By itself, this decision appeared to me to be entirely normal and appropriate, in the circumstances described above.

But much to my surprise, that President’s decision quickly became the subject of animated debate among “politicians and academicians”; as was reported by the ‘DAILY NEWS on Saturday,’ of 1st September, 2018; which carried the following news item prominently on its front page: “JPM praised for containers verdict.”

That is what gave me the motivation for writing this article, and in particular, because of Dr Benson Bana’s reported comment, that “the President’s stance has put to rest the feelings harboured by some individuals that he (the President) was favouring some leaders in his government”.

Surely, such misconceived feelings must be ‘killed and buried’ because, as the law pundits tell us, “he who alleges, must prove”. We have seen no proof of such favouritism on the part of President Magufuli.

But it is granted that such differences of opinion are a common feature in any community, because they arise basically from the natural differences in peoples’ perceptions, particularly regarding issues pertaining to ‘ethics’.

That is why there are differences of opinion on issues like as capital punishment, abortion, and polygamy. In such matters, opinions are divided on whether they are morally right, or wrong.

But we will reserve that interesting discussion for another day. In the meantime, we will focus on the division of opinion regarding President Magufuli’s decision on RC “Makonda’s containers”.

I was one of the few selected “politicians and academicians” who were invited to comment on that issue, which I did, but only very briefly. This article will explain a bit more extensively, my own viewpoint regarding the ‘ethics’ aspects of the said decision by President Magufuli.

President Magufuli’s basic character Based on my personal knowledge of President Magufuli, I consider his decision on this matter as being completely ‘in character’

. I have known President Magufuli from the time when he was first elected to Parliament in October 1990, when I had the opportunity to watch his performances in that august House ‘at close range’ from the Speaker’s Chair, initially as the Deputy Speaker.

Thus, in my considered opinion, his ‘courage’ (in decision-making), and his ‘commitment’ (to a cause), appear to be the two pillars of his character.

In my History class at St Francis College Pugu (later re-named Pugu Secondary School), we were learning “The History of the British Empire”, in which we were taught that “Markets, Money, Machines; were the three ‘M’s that transformed the English people from a small insular nation, to a nation of worldwide interests and influence”.

In similar vein, and now with the added advantage of ‘hind sight’, I can venture to conclude that ‘character’, ‘courage’, and ‘commitment’ are the three ‘C’s which propelled John Pombe Magufuli, from his humble beginnings of a Secondary School chemistry teacher, to the highest pinnacle of State power, as President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

This perception appears to be confirmed by the bold and courageous actions which the President has been taking, right from the beginning of his first term as President, approximately three years ago.

For example, his decisions and actions have rapidly restored ‘sanity’ in the conduct of the public affairs of our nation. It is, presumably, common knowledge that prior to his appearance on the country’s top leadership scene; there had emerged a new ‘crazy tribe’, made up of incredibly selfish people, whose “culture of impunity” was literary destroying the country’s economy.

Included in this strange tribe were: the deal fixers; the tax evaders; and the outright looters, such as those who were engaged in the big scale corruption activities of highly inflating the costs in project contracts, or making huge cash payments for non-existent projects, or to large numbers of ghost workers, plus the illegal switching of public properties to individual ownership.

There is ample evidence to show that President Magufuli has achieved a great deal of success in his endeavours to dismantle this ‘crazy tribe’, and this is sufficient testimony to his basic character whose corner stones are courage, and commitment.

Hence, in my humble view, President Magufuli’s decision in the “Makonda containers” saga, is anchored on these exemplary aspects of his character.

That is to say, the courage to take bold decisions, and the commitment to abide by the law. His commitment to abide by the law One clear example of such commitment, is his unambiguous statement which he issued in January, 2018.

The Catholic faithful have one regular prayer, which includes the following words: “Lakini sema neno tu, na roho yangu itapona”.

(Lord, say but a word, and my soul shall be healed). In early January, 2018; an official statement issued from State House, revealed the President Magufuli had uttered the precise words that literally “healed the souls” of many of what we may call the “Constitution faithful”, that is to say, the multitudes of Tanzanians who are faithful to the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Previous to that statement, there had been taking place a (misconceived) debate which was aimed at persuading the President to agree to the proposal to amend the Constitution, in order to extend the Presidential term of office from the current five-year term, to seven years.

On that blessed day, President Magufuli had issued a categorical statement saying that he had “no wish to stay in office beyond the constitutionally stipulated period”.

In the said statement, the President continued as follows: “In my oath of office, I solemnly vowed to abide by the Constitution. There is no way I can lead the country for twenty years”.

That is impossible. I must respect the Constitution”. That statement was received with the enthusiasm it deserved; above all by the mass media, all of whom were awash with that great news on the next day, as exemplified by the following quotations from some of the print media:- “JPM REBUFFS TERM EXTENSION DEBATE’; “MAGUFULI WARNS AGAINST EXTENDING PRESIDENTIAL TERMS”; “MAGUFULI AFUNGA MJADALA MUDA WA URAIS”; and many others.

Through this statement, the President had clearly demonstrated his unshakeable commitment to abide by the Constitution.

In that connection, it may be helpful to remind our readers that the respected father of our nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, was greatly perturbed when his immediate successor to the Presidency, started showing signs of disrespect for the Constitution, by his apparent willingness to accept pressure to amend the Constitution, in order to remove the limitation of two-five year Presidential terms.

Mwalimu Nyerere expressed his feelings of disapproval in his book titled: “Our Leadership and the destiny of Tanzania”, in which he wrote the following: “It is of vital importance for the peace of this country, and to the possibilities of harmonious development, that all the provisions of the Union Constitution as it stands at any one time, should be respected and honoured.

In his oath of office, the President of the United Republic swears to uphold the Constitution. It is therefore his prime responsibility to ensure that the Constitution is respected”.

As can be seen, President Magufuli uttered exactly the same words in his announcement rebuffing the ‘term extension’ misconceived debate which we referred to above. Like Nyerere, like Magufuli !

The Presidential oath of office Some of the other words in the President’s oath of office read as follows: “I swear that I shall do my duties, and carry out my responsibilities, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, towards any one”.

This means that the President is required to fulfill the tasks entrusted upon him without permitting himself to be influenced by any personal likes or dislikes, nor by any considerations of his own comfort or convenience.

President Magufuli’s action in directing RC Makonda to pay taxes on the containers which were imported in his personal name, indicates that the President was honouring his oath of office, which enjoins him to carry out his responsibilities “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any one”.

If I may again refer to Dr Benson Bana’s comments quoted above, this points further helps “to put to rest the feelings harboured by some individuals that the President was favouring some persons in his Government”.

His taxation drive is another example of such commitment Mwalimu Nyerere is also on record to have said the following in one of his memorable speeches: “corrupt Governments do not collect taxes”.

We are all witnesses to the fact that under President Magufuli’s leadership, the amounts of tax money collected per annum have risen massively from the previous billions to the current trillions.

An achievement of gigantic proportions. His decision in respect of the ‘Makonda containers’ must be viewed in the light of this commitment, namely, respect for the law relating to taxation.

His commitment to put the mining sector in order Following the revelation by two special committees which had been appointed by President Magufuli, of massive ‘thievery and deception antics’ which had been perpetrated by certain specified mining firms, resulting from faulty mining contracts and inappropriate mining laws; in July, 2017, the Parliament of the United Republic enacted two historic ‘natural resources protection laws’, which had been presented to the House by President Magufuli’s Government.

These were clearly aimed at putting the country’s mining sector in order. They were (i) The Natural Wealth and resources (review and re-negotiation of unconscionable terms) Act 2017; and (ii) The Natural Wealth and Resources (Permanent Sovereignty ) Act, 2017.

The overall effect of these new laws was to strengthen the supervision and control of the mining sector, and its allied sectors of oil and natural gas; but also to increasing Government’s revenue collections from these sectors.

Their enactment heralded an entirely new era, built on a strong legal base, which will effectively protect the country’s coveted natural resources.

This is another achievement of gigantic proportions, based on President Magufuli’s character and commitment to upholding the ‘rule of law’; and uplifting the country’s economy.

And, here is a reminder, lest we forget, that ‘character’ ‘courage’ and ‘commitment’ are undoubtedly the three ‘C’s which have been the corner stones of President Magufuli’s success in life.

  • Piomsekwa@gmail.com / 0754767576.
  • piomsekwa@gmail.com / 0754767576.

A graduation party was organized ...

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Author: Pius Msekwa

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