Dar es Salaam. Multiple theories have emerged in an attempt to explain the motivation behind the latest move by President Samia Suluhu Hassan to undertake a minor reshuffle in her cabinet, with some interpreting it as the Head of State’s strategy to consolidate power as the general election nears.
During Wednesday’s cabinet reshuffle, Samia created a new position of Deputy Prime Minister, appointing Bukombe MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM) Dotto Biteko to it, who became the third person to serve the position in the history of Tanzania after the late Augustino Mrema and Salim Ahmed Salim.
Mr Biteko, who was heading the mineral docket before the reshuffle, will also serve as the new Minister for Energy, replacing January Makamba, who has been transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr Makamba is replacing Stergomena Tax, who has been returned to the Ministry of Defense and National Service.
Mr Innocent Bashungwa, to be replaced by Dr Tax, will now head the newly formed Ministry of Works. In her Wednesday reshuffle, Samia broke up the Ministry of Works and Transport, appointing Prof Makame Mbarawa, who was heading it, to lead the newly created Ministry of Transport.
In the reshuffle, President Samia dropped Angelina Mabula, who was heading the Ministry of Land and Housing, replacing her with Mr Jerry Silaa, who became the newest face of Samia’s cabinet. She also dropped two deputy ministers.
The Head of State also transferred Pindi Chana from the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Sports to the Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, replacing Damas Ndumbaro, who will now head the culture, arts and sports docket. In the reshuffle, Samia also transferred Permanent Secretaries and appointed new deputy ministers.
Following the reshuffle, debates swirled on various discussion fora, including social media, where people were trying to get a sense of Samia’s latest line-up of assistants, with some wondering what could have motivated the national chairperson of the ruling CCM to take the decisions she did.
There were those, for instance, who interpreted the move as part of Samia’s strategy to consolidate power as the nation prepares for civic and general elections in 2024 and 2025, respectively, by keeping loyalists ever close to her.
One of the proponents of this theory is Deus Kibamba, a renowned political and constitutional analyst based in Dar es Salaam, who told The Chanzo that upcoming elections, among other things, must have influenced Wednesday’s cabinet reshuffle.
He said people should not view the reshuffle as an isolated development but as part of measures President Samia has been taking recently, including the appointment of a new spy chief, Ambassador Ali Idi Siwa, to be able to get the gist of the Head of State’s direction.
“The upcoming elections are going to be very tough,” Mr Kibamba, who teaches at the Centre for Foreign Relations (CFR), told The Chanzo. “By paying attention to what is currently happening within CCM, you get an impression that the elections will be very tough.”
The reshuffle also occurred against the background of a strong resistance that the Samia Administration received on its intergovernmental agreement with the Emirate of Dubai that would allow the latter’s logistics company, DP World, to take over some operations at the Dar es Salaam port.
The opposition to the deal has been described as the most constant one in the history of independent Tanzania, with the government appearing unable to justify the deal to its suspecting citizens, who continue to raise several critical issues with the controversial agreement.
On Tuesday, the government had to withdraw the proposals it sent to the parliament to amend key natural resources law – the Natural Wealth and Resources (Permanent Sovereignty) Act of 2017 and the Natural Wealth and Resources Contracts (Review and Re-Negotiation of Unconscionable Terms) Act, 2017 (No. 6 of 2017) – to prevent them from applying to port investments.
It followed a decision by the Parliamentary Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee to decline to go ahead with the proposals, with its chairperson telling The Chanzo on August 25, 2023, that it needed some clarification from the government on the content of the proposed changes before it invited the public to share their views about them.
According to Mr Kibamba, one of the country’s reputable constitutional expert, it is no coincidence that the reshuffle happened now, telling The Chanzo: “I’m not surprised that we have this reshuffle now, I honestly anticipated them.”
A bigger govt?
But Samia’s decision to break up the Ministry of Works and Transport and create two different ministries has displeased others, who interpreted the change as unnecessary, eventually affecting Tanzania’s taxpayers.
This is the second ministry for President Samia to break up, the first being the Ministry of Finance and Planning, whose dissolving led to the formation of two different ministries, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Planning and Investment.
Thobias Messanga, a lawyer with Tanzania’s Constitution Forum, told The Chanzo that such decisions reflect the extent to which the government is inconsiderate of people’s hardships as they endure the skyrocketing cost of living.
“We increasingly enlarge the size of our government,” Mr Messanga observed. “The one who will bear the brunt here is the common person, who continues to struggle helplessly with a biting cost of living crisis. What is needed is an accountable government, not a bigger government.”
Suprisingly, President Samia has also revived an old contradictory title which was also seen during the second phase government, the Deputy Prime Minister. Debates has been going around the constitutionality of the title, with some arguing that there is a breach of the constitution.
But legal experts from both sides have had a consensus that, as per Article 36(1) of the Tanzania Constitution, President has the power to change the establishment, not just to fill in roles. With some highlighting that, this is one of the examples of the excessive power that the President has, explaining that this needs to be addressed with the new constitution.
The lingering questions remain about the role of the Prime Minister going forward, the new position is noted as a clear reduction of his mandate.
“Maybe the President wants to add more responsibility to the Prime Minister desk,” argued Israel Ilunde, a seasoned political analyst, “but it can also mean the Prime Minister might need to asses his position.”
Lukelo Francis is The Chanzo’s journalist from Dar es Salaam. He is available at email@example.com.