Dar es Salaam. The government on Wednesday banned Uhuru newspaper, the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi’s (CCM) mouthpiece, for allegedly publishing a false story about President Samia Suluhu Hassan, which is the government’s chief spokesperson Gerson Msigwa said was against both Tanzania’s media laws as well as the principles of ethical journalism. The paper has been suspended for fourteen days starting tomorrow, August 12, 2021.
In its Wednesday’s issue, Uhuru carried a front-page story reading ‘Sina wazo kuwania uraisi 2025 – Samia,’ which translates to ‘I do not intend to run for the presidency in 2025 – Samia’ in English. The paper did the story based on an interview the Head of State, who doubles as CCM’s national chairperson, did with BBC Swahili on Monday. But authorities dismissed Uhuru’s story as a lie, saying there is nowhere in the interview where President Samia says she does not have a plan to run for the presidency in 2025.
During the interview, BBC’s Salim Kikeke asks President Samia if she has any plan to run for the presidency during the next general election in 2025 and this is how the Head of State responded: “Let’s work first. The issue is two-sided. Let’s work first and see how we proceed [as a country]. Of 2025, let us leave them to God. You can get there or not. What if I say I’ll run and not make it [to 2025]? So let us leave that to God.”
Uhuru becomes the first newspaper to face suspension since Samia became the president in March 2021. CCM Secretary-General Daniel Chongoro said during a press conference yesterday that all of those who were found involved in one way or the other in the publication of the story have been suspended, including the company’s executive director Mr Ernest Sungura.
Although Mr Chongolo distanced CCM from being responsible for the story, some think that its publication is not at all accidental. Observers of Tanzania’s political developments think that the incident says a lot about the ongoing suppressed but growing fractions within one of Africa’s oldest political parties, especially between the camp of former president John Magufuli’s loyalists and President Samia’s base.
The Uhuru incident occurred at a time when some prominent CCM lawmakers, like Josephat Gwajima and Humphrey Polepole, two of the most loyal CCM cadres to Magufuli, are publicly pushing against Samia’s approach to COVID-19 and particularly on vaccines, urging for the country’s return on Mr Magufuli’s denialist approach to combating the deadly virus. Despite CCM’s warnings that it’d stop at nothing in taking actions against people trying to “sabotage” President Samia, the two have sworn to never back down.
Former cabinet minister and CCM member Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that what has happened “is not an accident,” telling President Samia that “the chain is inside and not outside.” The Chanzo contacted Ambassador Kagasheki to see if he would clarify what he had meant by that statement but he had not replied by the time this story was published.
Dr Thabit Jacob of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden who is a keen follower of Tanzania’s politics tells The Chanzo: “[The Uhuru incident] can’t be accidental. Some people are already looking at the 2025 [presidential] nomination [from CCM]. We shouldn’t overreact but this signal clandestine factional rifts.” Dr Jacob says that the good news is that “she saw this [coming] so early and warned the boys [and the girls in her party and government].”
He’s referring to President Samia’s warning she gave on April 1, 2021, during a function to swear in the newly appointed ministers at the State House in the capital Dodoma. “I understand that 2025 [when the next general election will take place] is very close,” said the President during the occasion.
“And the tradition – I don’t know if it’s just in Tanzania or all over the world – when the incumbent president enters his/her second term, people tend to have that and this. I’m urging you all to stop it. Anyone with an intention [to contest for presidency in] 2025 to stop it immediately,” warned President Samia.