President Suluhu and the shifting matrix of governance

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By James Macharia

Barely three weeks in office, the newly sworn-in Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan is seemingly taking a different approach on the issues  ailing the state.

From a scientific tackle on the ravaging Covid-19 to lifting a ban on the country’s media houses, President Suluhu Hassan is apparently breathing a breath of fresh air to Tanzanians.

On covid-19,President Samia Suluhu Hassan said that her government will form a committee of experts with a mandate to examine and assess the scope of Covid-19 infections in the country. The committee will later advise her on the possible go-ahead and ways of containing the virus.

During the Tuesday briefing, an event that was covered live by local and international media, President Suluhu said that it was wrong to ignore the deadly virus, a complete departure from her predecessor Dr John Magufuli who never believed that the virus was in Tanzania.

“Covid-19 is not something we should be quiet about or refuse or accept without doing a scientific examination,” she said.

She also put it clear that the committee, soon after formation, will conduct series of medical researches whose results will inform the state on the way forward and what the world recommends.

“We will do medical research which will tell us the scope of the problem and advise us about what the world is recommending as well as our own expertise,” President Suluhu added.

President Suluhu said so while presiding over a swearing-in function of top government officials at Tanzania State House, the president’s official residence in Dar Es Salaam.

Her predecessor, the late Magufuli, discouraged wearing of masks publicly, keeping social distance, herbal remedies and physical fitness and also dismissed scientific approaches to combat the virus.

President Magufuli, instead asked Tanzanians to to more prayers and believed that the state was rid of the virus through a three-day national prayer event he had called for across the country.

But even with the view that Suluhu is turning tables, opposition leader,Tundu Lissu, now a fugitive in Belgium, said Tanzanians should not applaud her.

“This will be no different from the Magufuli’s way of doing things. It’s Magufuli’s without Magufuli!” Lissu twitted.

Prior to his demise, Magufuli had fired a shot of warning to Tanzanians on taking Covid-19 vaccines. He protected the country’s economy and uttered sentiments reproaching countries which put restrictions on travelling or observing the laid World Health Organization (WHO) protocols aimed at combating the spread of the deadly virus.

On the same occasion, President Hassan also ordered an immediate opening of the media houses which had been banned during Magufuli’s term in office.

When he was in power, Magufuli did not spare any media outlet that published or broadcasted anything that would portray his reign in bad light. He ensured that all media houses danced to his tune and subscribed to his agenda without fail. And those which did not, he singled them out just with a stroke of a pen.

“I am hearing some media outlets, mobile televisions had been banned. I want those media outlets allowed to operate but as per laws of this country. There’s no need to give them pleasure to say we are suppressing press freedom.” Suluhu directed.

Tanzania’s major English newspaper, The Citizen, is one those media outlets that had been banned for publishing content deemed critical by Magufuli’s government.

According to Rights groups, Tanzania has been abusing the 2015 Cybercrimes Act to prosecute innocent journalists and activists for social media posts.

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