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The Chanzo Morning Briefing – September 7, 2021.

In our briefing today: Tanzanian judge overseeing Mbowe’s terrorism case withdraws; Party Registrar: Tanzania is not a military state; Tanzania to install 25 oxygen generating plants for COVID-19 patients.  

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Dar es Salaam. Good morning! The Chanzo is here with a rundown of major news stories reported in Tanzania on Monday, September 6, 2021.

Tanzanian judge overseeing Mbowe’s terrorism case withdraws

High Court judge Elinazer Luvanda who was overseeing a terrorism case against CHADEMA national chairperson Mr Freeman Mbowe and three others at the court’s Corruption and Economic Crimes Division has withdrawn from the case on Monday following a protest from defendants that they do not have confidence in the presiding judge.

Mr Mbowe told Judge Luvanda yesterday, September 6, 2021, when his case was brought for hearing, that he and his co-accused do not have confidence that the latter will oversee a fair trial in the highly sensitive case that the fifty-nine-year-old opposition figure is facing. The case has been postponed until further notice to pave way for a replacement.

Mr Mbowe was brought before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court for the first time on July 26, 2021, accused of taking part in conspiracies to blow up fueling stations and other public gatherings as well as funding terrorist acts before his case was transferred to the High Court.

He was arrested in Mwanza together with eleven other CHADEMA cadres — who have since been released — ahead of a New Constitution conference that BAVICHA had called and which Mr Mbowe was expected to be the guest of honour. Others in the case No. 16/2021 are Halfan Hassan, Adam Kasekwa and Mohamed Lingwenya.

Monday’s development took place against the background of unconfirmed reports by exiled journalist Ansbert Ngurumo that Judge Luvanda has been strategically appointed to oversee the case in order to make sure that Mr Mbowe is found guilty of the charges levelled against him and his co-accused.

According to the history of Judge Luvanda’s service at the High Court compiled by Mr Ngurumo, the judge has overseen a number of cases brought against opposition politicians by the government or cases filed against government officials.

In 2019, for example, Judge Luvanda was among the team of three judges who oversaw the case filed by ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe against Speaker of Parliament Job Ndugai and Attorney General urging the High Court to protect the former Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Prof Mussa Assad who was summoned to appear before the parliamentary committee to be questioned over his weak parliament remarks.

In 2020, Judge Luvanda was one of the three judges who oversaw a case filed by ACT-Wazalendo Secretary-General Ado Shaibu against then-President John Magufuli, which protested the appointment of Aderladus Kilangi as Tanzania’s Attorney General.

In 2021, Judge Luvanda was also a part of the team of three judges who heard a constitutional case filed by former Iringa Urban MP, Peter Msigwa and former Mbeya Urban MP, Joseph Mbilinyi (Sugu) – both from CHADEMA – against Commissioner General of Prisons and the Attorney General to protest the violation of their basic constitutional rights while serving sentences handed down by Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court and Mbeya Magistrate Court.

Party Registrar: Tanzania is not a military state

The Office of Party Registrar is intending to organize a consultative meeting between itself, the Tanzania Police Force as well as leaders of political parties to discuss the growing trend of law enforcement officers interfering with political activities, something which Party Registrar Francis Mutungi criticized, warning that Tanzania “is not a military state.”

Far from doing what they are supposed to do in protecting people and their properties, the Tanzania Police Force is notoriously known for its interference with the East African nation’s political activities, especially those organized by opposition parties.

So blatant has been its violation of the country’s constitution and laws governing activities by political parties that opposition leaders and other pro-democracy activists have labelled the police force “an anti-democratic force.”

It has prevented opposition parties’ forums, including internal meetings, from taking place. Police have on numerous occasions harassed, intimidated, tortured, and detained a number of opposition parties’ leaders, members, and supporters for doing absolutely nothing other than taking part in a legal assembly.

“We have let this situation creates a negative perception to the public,” said Mutungi during a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday, September 6, 2021. “We would never wish people to start living in fear [by allowing] that every party meeting invites heavy police’s presence. [Tanzania] is not a military state. The Office of Party Registrar feels obliged to let the Tanzanian public knows that our politics has not reached that stage of senseless tension.”

While the police have never enjoyed a neutral relationship with Tanzania’s opposition parties since the country reintroduced multiparty democracy in 1992, the illegal ban on political activities exacerbated the already bitter relations existing between the two.

Imposed in early 2016 by the late President John Magufuli, the controversial ban on political rallies has been on several occasions cited by the police as a justification for preventing a particular opposition party from organizing an assembly even an internal one.

Magufuli, who died on March 17, 2021, of heart disease, imposed the ban on the grounds that it was distracting him from fulfilling the promises he made during the campaign trail. He said only the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has the right to organize rallies because it won elections. He allowed only elected opposition politicians to organize rallies but only within their respective constituencies.

Many expected President Samia Suluhu Hassan to lift the ban and allow opposition parties to organize their activities freely. But to their chagrin, the Head of State chose to maintain it, pleading with people to give her some time to fix the economy before starting to address political issues.

Between the time Samia was sworn in as Tanzania’s sixth president on March 19, 2021, and the time she announced that she is going to maintain the ban imposed by her predecessor on June 30, 2020, members of the country’s political opposition enjoyed some relief in organizing their activities.

But this abruptly changed when President Samia indicated that she is not going to lift the ban. Police started blocking opposition parties’ meetings as well as arresting dozens of their members and supporters.

Just over the weekend, police in the Mara region, north of Tanzania, arrested nine members of opposition CHADEMA as part of efforts to block the party’s Youth Wing’s (BAVICHA) attempt to organize a symposium on constitutional reforms.

On August 28, 2021, police in Dar es Salaam prevented opposition NCCR-Mageuzi from organizing its Central Committee (CC) meeting, with the law enforcement agency claiming that there were signs that violence was going to take place at the meeting.

ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe described Mr Mutungi’s decision to organize the meeting as “an appropriate one.” In a Twitter post, Zitto wrote: “Police have been recklessly violating [the country’s] laws [by] preventing opposition parties from doing their lawful activities. The meeting should not be delayed [so that] political parties can organize their activities freely.”

Tanzania to install 25 oxygen generating plants for COVID-19 patients

The government has started installing 25 oxygen-generating plants across the country in an effort to help COVID-19 patients with respiratory complications, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

According to the director of preventive services in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Leonard Subi each of the oxygen generating plants will have the capacity to fill 200 oxygen cylinders.

“The installation of the oxygen generating plants will help solve shortages of oxygen when there is a surge of COVID-19 patients who develop respiratory complications,” said the official.

Subi told Members of Parliament in a seminar on COVID-19 held in the capital Dodoma that the installation of the oxygen-generating plants was being financed in partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

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