The Chanzo’s Morning Briefing – July 27, 2021

In our briefing, today: Drama as police produce Mbowe in court; Misinformation spikes as Tanzania seeks to roll out its covid vaccination plan; TZ woman held with remdesivir vials at Delhi airport; and TEC: We don’t discriminate against people based on political affiliation
The Chanzo Reporter27 July 20217 min

Dar es Salaam. Good morning! The Chanzo is here with a rundown of major news stories reported in Tanzania on Monday, July 26, 2021.

Drama as police produce Mbowe in court

CHADEMA national chairperson Mr Freeman Mbowe was yesterday brought before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court facing economic sabotage charges that involve funding terrorist activities aimed at assassinating government leaders, senior state attorneys Ester Martin and Tulimanywa Majigo told the Chief Resident Magistrate Thomas Simba on Monday.

Mr Mbowe was arrested in the company of eleven other CHADEMA members on July 21, 2021, in Mwanza where he was intended to be the guest of honour at a New Constitution conference organized by the party’s Youth Wing (BAVICHA). Police prevented the internal meeting from taking place, citing the presidential ban on political rallies. On Saturday, police released the eleven CHADEMA cadres, including former Tarime Rural MP John Heche (CHADEMA).

O July 22, 2021, Tanzania Police Force’s spokesperson David Misime said during a press conference in Dar es Salaam that the law enforcement agency was holding Mr Mbowe over terrorism charges, adding that the opposition figure and six other unnamed people were implicated in conspiracies aimed at assassinating some government’s leaders. The announcement was preceded by a search at Mr Mbowe’s house in Mikocheni, Dar es Salaam, where police reportedly seized his children’s laptops, tablets, and modems.

Before he was brought to court on Monday, Mr Mbowe was detained at the Oysterbay Police Station in Dar es Salaam. On the morning of that day, Mr Mbowe was reported to have fallen ill and efforts were made by his family and advocates to take him to hospital. The police had informed family members and advocates that Mr Mbowe would be taken to hospital only to realize later that they were duped because while they were waiting for Mr Mbowe to be sent to hospital the police secretly produced him to the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court.

The Chanzo has not seen the charge sheet issued against Mr Mbowe. But according to Mwananchi newspaper whose reporter was at the court when Mr Mbowe was arraigned, state attorneys alleged that between May and August 2020, at the Aishi Machame Hotel in Moshi, Kilimanjaro, Mr Mbowe took part in the conspiracies to assassinate government leaders while knowing that doing so violated Tanzania’s laws.

The plaintiff informed the court that the investigation into Mr Mbowe’s alleged crimes was incomplete, asking the magistrate to put the case on another date for hearing so that the government could come with documents proving Mr Mbowe’s culpability. The case has been postponed until August 5, 2021, and Mr Mbowe has been taken to Ukonga Maximum Security Prison in Dar es Salaam because the charges against him are non-bailable.

Misinformation spikes as Tanzania seeks to roll out its covid vaccination plan

As Tanzania expects to roll out its vaccination program against the novel coronavirus to its citizens, a huge, fierce, and less-than-intellectual debate has engulfed the East African nation, raising questions if the government’s voluntary vaccination plan will bear fruit in keeping the killer disease at bay.

Tanzania has at the moment more than one million doses of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine thanks to a donation by the U.S. government through the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative, the global vaccine-sharing facility that the country requested to join in mid-June this year.

The government plans to inoculate at least 35 million people or 60 per cent of the population, and priority will be given to those with underlying health conditions and the elderly. The shots will be administered on a voluntary basis and they’ll be given free of charge.

But the government seems to be facing serious misinformation and disinformation challenges that it’ll have to solve for its plan to be successful. While there are many vaccine sceptics in the country, a televangelist preacher and Kawe MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM) Josephat Gwajima has been the face of these misinformation campaigns as he uses the pulpit to urge people not to take the covid vaccines.

During a prayer session over the weekend, for example, Mr Gwajima said that no one is sure that the vaccines provided in the United Kingdom are the same as the ones that Tanzanians are being told to prepare to take. He added: “Did [we] do a chemical analysis to understand the chemical content of [the particular] vaccine? I want to see any medical doctor who would sensitize [people to take the vaccine.] I’ll dine with them at the same table. They will die.”

Gwajima is no stranger to spreading misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. In May this year, speaking in the parliament, Gwajima doubted the vaccine’s efficiency citing the speed with which it was developed. In February, also speaking in the parliament, Mr Gwajima called a decision against vaccination and against social distancing “an appropriate decision.”

Mr Gwajima’s controversial takes on coronavirus vaccines have invited sharp criticisms from experts, his own party CCM, lawmakers and other religious leaders. CCM Secretary of Ideology and Publicity Mr Shaka Hamdu Shaka, for example, said on Monday that the party “was closely following up” the trend of some of its leaders “who have been spreading misinformation about covid vaccines,” promising strict disciplinary measures against them.

Former cabinet minister and Bumbuli MP (CCM) Mr January Makamba has called Mr Gwajima’s behaviour “unacceptable” in a Twitter post on Monday. “It is dangerous to mislead people who trust us [by commenting on things] that we are not experts of,” said Mr Makamba. “A discussion on the vaccine’s safety is correct but [alleging] that the government has brought the vaccines to hurt people is not correct.”

While no systematic study has been done to test Tanzanians’ level of acceptability of the vaccine, there is no doubt that these sentiments will affect people’s willingness to take the shots.

In an attempt to find solutions to this likely possibility, some, including the incarcerated CHADEMA national chairperson Freeman Mbowe, has recommended the government to make the vaccines mandatory though it is very unlikely for authorities to heed the advice as the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that such a move would “raise a number of ethical considerations and concerns.

In this analysis, published on July 8, 2021, The Chanzo’s contributor Jerry Mosses discusses the question, Will Tanzanians Take COVID-19 Vaccines? He offers a couple of recommendations to the government and other stakeholders on measures to be taken so that more Tanzanians can be willing to access the jabs, including investing in mass public awareness campaigns.

TZ woman held with remdesivir vials at Delhi airport

A Tanzanian woman Aiman Gulshanraza Syed has been apprehended by the Indian police at the Delhi international airport on Sunday for allegedly carrying 70 remdesivir vials and some other medicines in an alleged unauthorized manner, the Indian television News18 reported Monday.

Remdesivir is a restricted drug that is used for the treatment of Covid-infected patients and it cannot be exported without government permission or license. Syed was intercepted and detained at Terminal-3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport night just before she was to take an Ethiopian airlines flight to Dar es Salaam.

“On physical checking of her baggage, different types of medicines, including 70 vials of remdesivir injections were found. The approximate cost of the medicines cache is Rs 3.5 lakh [Sh10.9 million],” News18 quoted an anonymous Indian police officer as saying.

Syed was handed over to India’s Customs authorities for further investigation as she could not furnish any documents for carrying the medicines.

TEC: We don’t discriminate against people based on political affiliations

Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) Secretary-General Dr Charles Kitima said yesterday that the Catholic Church does not discriminate against people based on their political associations after members of opposition CHADEMA in Mbeya were prevented from participating in a prayer service because they wore the party’s uniforms.

The incident that has caused an uproar on social media took place on Sunday, July 25, 2021, in the southwest region of Tanzania. During an interview, Dr Kitima said the church does not have any arrangement that dictates what dress should one wear when attending its prayer services.

“A person is allowed to attend the service while wearing any type of dress as long as the dress is socially acceptable,” Dr Kitima said. “It means that anyone is allowed to take part in the prayer service if they are in decent dressing. The church does not put any emphasis on what colour of the dress someone is allowed to come with to a service.”

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