Dar es Salaam. Good morning! The Chanzo is here with a rundown of major news stories reported in Tanzania on Tuesday, 17 August 21.
Is this the end of Gwajima’s campaign against COVID-19 vaccines?
Minister of Health Dr Dorothy Gwajima on Tuesday ordered televangelist and Kawe lawmaker (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM) Josephat Gwajima to either prove his claims that government officials have been bribed so that they can allow the importation of COVID-19 vaccines in Tanzania or otherwise faces an arrest.
During a function in the village of Kyatunge in the Mara district of Butiama Dr Gwajima said as an official spokesperson of Tanzania’s health sector she is “tired” of seeing the evangelical pastor coming up with one claim after another about COVID-19 vaccines and the pandemic in general without supporting any of them with evidence something she said confuses the public more than it helps it.
As the founder and Archbishop of Glory of Christ Tanzania Church (GCTC), popularly known as ‘Ufufuo na Uzima,’ Gwajima the pastor has probably been the number one anti-vaxxer in Tanzania, using both his religious and political platforms to warn people against getting the COVID-19 vaccine, calling it “dangerous.”
During one of his prayer sessions, 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, he 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.”
“Gwajima is my brother, he definitely is my brother-in-law, but I’m a minister and I have taken an oath to serve my country, not my brother-in-law,” Dr Gwajima said during the function. “[He] has transformed his church into an alternative to the ministry of health. He has become the chief spokesperson of [Tanzania’s] health sector. He claims to be protecting Tanzanians. I’m the spokesperson of health-related issues in [Tanzania], and I’m tired of being confused. I’m directing [security organs] to arrest [Mr Gwajima] from wherever he is so that he can be interrogated over these claims and necessary steps be taken.”
Mr Gwajima’s controversial takes on coronavirus vaccines have in the past 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 July 26, 2021, 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 out Mr Gwajima’s behaviour, calling it “unacceptable” in a Twitter post. “It is dangerous to mislead people who trust us [by commenting on things] that we are not experts of,” said Mr Makamba then. “A discussion on the vaccine’s safety is correct but [alleging] that the government has brought the vaccines to hurt people is not correct.”
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Professor Abel Makubi said over the weekend that since the government started rolling out its COVID-19 vaccination program on August 3, 2021, a total of 207, 391 people from the targeted groups, which include people with underlying health conditions, healthcare workers and the elderly, have been vaccinated. Among those vaccinated, a total of 121, 002, which is an equivalent of 58.3 per cent, are men while 86,389 (41.7 per cent) are women.
Tanzania plans to inoculate at least 35 million people or 60 per cent of the population. The U.S. government had donated the vaccines to Tanzania through the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX initiative, the global vaccine-sharing facility that the East African nation requested to join in mid-June this year.
Uproar as police arrest CHADEMA members during church service
The Tanzania Police Force is once again in the spotlight after its officers in Mwanza raided one of the Catholic Church parishes in the city and arrested over two dozen members and leaders of the main opposition party in the country CHADEMA. It is the second incident that involves CHADEMA cadres being prevented from participating in a prayer service in a Catholic parish. The first incident took place on July 25, 2021, in Mbeya.
The incident that has since caused uproar online took place on Sunday, August 15, 2021, when police raided a Catholic Church parish in Kawekamo, Mwanza, and arrested about 20 cadres who donned the opposition party’s uniforms. According to CHADEMA, five of its members were arrested before the service started while seventeen others were arrested shortly after the service.
“When our leaders went to the police station to inquire why their colleagues were arrested [police] told them that the church’s leadership informed the police that there were people at the church causing some chaos,” CHADEMA Elders Wing Secretary-General Mr Roderick Lutembeka said during a press conference in Dar es Salaam today. “But the church denied having made any call to police and there was no chaos during the said service.”
Until the time of writing, the law enforcement agency had not released any of those arrested that include CHADEMA secretary for Lake Victoria Zone, the party’s chairperson for Ilemela, and the party’s secretary for Nyamagana. Mr Lutembeka said Tuesday that police arresting people who attend prayer sessions “deserve condemnation from every Tanzanian.”
“Actions like these risk dividing the nation if strict measures are not taken against its perpetrators as soon as possible,” he added. “We demand that President Samia Suluhu Hassan takes strict actions against all those responsible for the arrest of our leaders so that she can put to an end this behaviour that seems to stick its roots in our country. We condemn this blatant violation of Tanzanians’ fundamental freedoms that continues to grow in the country and call upon the government to immediately and unconditionally free all CHADEMA leaders arrested on Sunday.”
Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) Secretary-General Dr Charles Kitima said on July 26, 2021, that the Catholic Church does not discriminate against people based on their political associations. He was reacting to reports that indicated that members of opposition CHADEMA in Mbeya were prevented from participating in a prayer service because they wore the party’s uniforms.
“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.”
Govt asks High Court to drop suit on mobile money transaction levy
The Solicitor General Mr Gabriel Malata told the High Court in Dar es Salaam on Monday that it needs to drop the case filed at the court by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) that challenges the recently introduced mobile money transaction levy that continues to face criticism from the public.
The levy, together with that on airtime, was introduced as part of the government strategy to finance its Sh36.6 trillion budget for the 2021/2022 financial year, with a total of Sh1.65 trillion expected to be collected from them. The mobile money transaction levy became operational on July 15, 2021, following an amendment of the Finance Act, 2021.
LHRC, a local human rights organization, filed case number 11 of 2021 on July 27, 202, to apply for a Supreme Court Review (Judicial Review) on the National Payments System Act Cap. 437 plus its regulations that impose levies on financial transactions by mobile phone. The case was brought for hearing for the first time on August 5, 2021, and resumed on Monday, August 16, 2021.
Presenting the government’s defence on Monday, Mr Malata told the High Court that Ms Ana Henga, LHRC Executive Director, who has sworn an affidavit to support the application, has no mandate to take such legal action on behalf of the Centre without being sanctioned by the Board, according to the government-owned Daily News newspaper.
The Solicitor General told the court that if Ms Henga was so aggrieved with the respondents’ action, she could on her own have taken the court action instead of hiding behind the LHRC. Mr Malata added that though Ms Henga has indicated that she is among subscribers of several mobile phones and that has been transacting money on various occasions, “it was the position of the Solicitor General that she ought to have indicated evidence how she has been affected,” the paper quoted the Solicitor General as saying.
On June 10, 2020, the parliament amended the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act to narrow the criteria for legal standing to challenge a law or policy that allegedly violates the constitution’s bill of rights. This meant that from there on anyone wanting to bring a legal case has to establish how a violation has “affected them personally.” Rights groups then criticized the amendments, saying they risk precluding groups from filing cases on behalf of victims – something that before the changes was normal – that raise important public interest issues, unless they can show they too are direct victims.
Mr Mpale Mpoki, who is representing LHRC in the case, defended the affidavit in support of the application, saying it clearly indicates some evidence that shows that Ms Henga is a subscriber to various mobile phones, proving that she has personally been affected by the levy, Daily News newspaper reported on Monday.
After listening to the arguments of both parties, The case is expected to resume on September 8, 2021.
Following the backlash triggered by the introduction of the levy, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on July 27, 2021, that she had formed a committee to analyze people’s complaints about the levy, adding that any government’s decision on the controversial levy will be based on the committee’s recommendations. But as of today, the Tanzanian public had not been updated on the committee’s progress and it is not clear when exactly will President Samia act on the recommendations from the committee.
Samia appoints three new ambassadors
President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Tuesday appointed three Tanzanians who are going to represent the country in various countries as ambassadors. President Samia appointed Lt. Gen. Yakub Hassan Mohamed as Tanzania’s ambassador to Turkey; she appointed Mr Mahmoud Thabit Kombo as the country’s ambassador to Italia and Ms Elsie Sia Kanza as Tanzania’s ambassador to the United States.
President Samia also appointed retired Judge Mohamed Chande Othman to be the head of Ardhi University while Prof Elisante Ole Gabriel to be the chief executive of the Judiciary. Before yesterday’s appointment, Prof Ole Gabriel was the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries (Livestock).
Prof Ole Gabriel replaces Mathias Kabunduguru who has retired. He will be sworn in on August 21, this year at the State House together with three appointed ambassadors.
Former finance minister Basil Mramba dies at 81
Former Finance Minister Basil Mramba died on Tuesday while receiving treatment at the Regency Hospital in Dar es Salaam. He was 81 years old when death found him. His family said in a statement that the late Mramba was admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 complications.
Mr Mramba served during the third phase administration under the late president Benjamin Mkapa. In a statement, Mr Mramba’s son Godfrey Mramba said: “With great sadness, Mramba’s family hereby announce the passage of our beloved father, Basil Pesambili Mramba. A life so beautifully lived deserves to be beautifully remembered. Mzee succumbed to illness at the Regency Medical Center earlier [Tuesday] morning, given the pandemic situation, the family accepts your sympathies and prayers and asks for privacy.”
During his life, Mr Mramva served in various positions in the government including Mbeya Regional Commissioner (1995-2000), Minister of Finance (2001-2005) and Minister of Trade and Industry (2006-2008).
In July 2015, Mr Mramba, alongside former energy minister Daniel Yona, was sentenced by the Kisutu Resident Magistrates’ Court to three years in jail after being convicted of 11 counts of abuse of office and causing Sh11.7 billion loss to the government.
But they were finally set free after serving six months behind bars and were ordered to do community services while serving a suspended sentence for the remained two years of their jail term.
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