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The Chanzo Morning Briefing Tanzania News– November 21, 2023.

In our briefing today: Judge suspends Senior Advocate amidst representation of a lawyer who opposed the Tanzania-Dubai port deal; Artists in Tanzania demand creative freedom: ‘We’re being censored’; Tanzania’s activists up in arms over planned ‘Epic Tanzania Tour’ in Ngorongoro; Twenty-five years of struggle: Transport workers and the ‘rights of the wretched’ in neoliberal Tanzania.

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Good morning! The Chanzo is here with a rundown of major news stories reported in Tanzania on Monday, November 20, 2023.

Judge suspends Senior Advocate amidst representation of a lawyer who opposed the Tanzania-Dubai port deal

Senior advocate Mpale Mpoki has been suspended for six months in a dramatic disciplinary hearing involving lawyer-activist Boniface Mwabukusi, a  figure whose profile has surged in the past four months due to his efforts in opposing the controversial Dubai-Tanzania port agreement. Mwabukusi’s advocacy has earned him recognition from various groups and a growing base of followers.

Throughout his opposition to the port deal, Mwabukusi has faced numerous challenges. He has been subjected to multiple arrests, faced unmaterialized treasonous charges, experienced disruptions and cancellations of his meetings, and is now under the threat of disbarment by the government attorney.

The Attorney General is looking to have Mwabukusi disbarred citing that he has conducted himself unprofessionally referring to several of his press conferences in which the lawyer had fiercely opposed the Dubai-Tanzania port deal.

During the hearing, which began yesterday, Mwabukusi was represented by a team of ten attorneys led by Mpale Mpoki. However, Mpoki was suspended by Judge Ntemi Kilekamajenga after requesting an appeal due to his dissatisfaction with the proceedings.

This marks the first time Mpoki has encountered such a rebuttal in his career, spanning decades since 1985. Mpale is well-known for successfully handling public interest civic litigation in courts within and outside the country.

The incident has sparked online conversations, particularly within the legal fraternity. Renowned legal and social activist Fatma Karume commented, “It would have been more prudent for the Judge to recuse himself than suspend the advocate with whom they disagree.” Chacha Wangwe, who leads Jukwaa la Katiba, argued that the incident is “a continuation of the threats to the freedoms of lawyers providing services for the public interest.”

The hearing is expected to continue in Dar es Salaam today at the High Court Land Division.

Artists in Tanzania demand creative freedom: ‘We’re being censored’

The prosecution of Sifa Bujune, a gospel singer from Mbeya, and her colleagues in September this year sent shock waves in Tanzania’s creative sector, alarming artists, creators, and freedom of expression activists of the distance authorities are willing to walk in suppressing artistic works deemed ‘inappropriate.’ 

Authorities charged Bujune – and her colleagues Salome Mwampeta and Hezekiel Millyashi – after they sang about police brutality in their song titled Mnatuona Nyani, which translates to You See Us As Apes in English, alleging that a young man had his teeth uprooted by police officers for no reason.

Police charged the artists with “publishing false information” under the controversial and much-criticised Cybercrime Act of 2015. The case is ongoing at the District Court of Mbeya, with its prospects casting a dark shadow over artistic freedom in Tanzania. 

The prosecution of the artists followed earlier incidents of interfering with artists’ works, especially those whose songs have political messages and are critical of the government. They involved banning several songs by dissident rapper Nay Wa Mitego, who also complained that authorities were blocking him from performing the songs.

Full story here.

Tanzania’s activists up in arms over planned ‘Epic Tanzania Tour’ in Ngorongoro

Activists in Tanzania have criticised the planned luxury tennis-themed safari in the East African nation, accusing authorities of “sportswashing” the ongoing human rights violations against the indigenous people of Ngorongoro, including the Maasai.

Dubbed the Epic Tanzania Tour, the event is priced at US$24,990 per person for single occupancy, and it will be hosted by world-renowned tennis legends John and Patrick McEnroe. The eight-day expedition in December 2023 is marketed as a “truly extraordinary experience to explore Africa’s most iconic landscapes.”

A partnership between the government of Tanzania and U.S.-based travel firm Insider Expeditions, the tour promises 120 participants a tennis match between the McEnroe brothers, a visit to the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater, a hot-air balloon flight over the savannah, champagne breakfasts, and scenic safari game drives.

In February of this year, President Samia Suluhu Hassan was quoted welcoming the initiative, saying efforts such as this one help Tanzania grow and achieve its developmental ambitions.

Full story here.

Twenty-five years of struggle: Transport workers and the ‘rights of the wretched’ in neoliberal Tanzania

Tanzania’s 2015 transport strikes still hold a special place in the memories of the workers involved. 

“The whole country stood still,” recalls one. Coaches, city buses, trucks, “none of them moved,” insists another. Not once but twice, for one day in early April and another two in May, “God held out his hand.”   

The immediate trigger for the strikes was Public Notice No. 31, a new government requirement that commercial drivers retrain every three years—paying a hefty fee for the privilege—before renewing their license. 

Grievances, though, ran much deeper than the licensing issue. Drivers—overwhelmingly informal workers with no contracts, fixed salaries, and no social protection—were demanding their rights, or as they put it, “haki za wanyonge”, or the rights of the wretched. 

“People were tired…drivers were tired.” 

However tired, though, how do the “wretched” organise a strike? And not just any strike, but one of the few instances of nationwide industrial action in Tanzania’s post-colonial history? The story does not stop there, either. 

The strikes had an extended pre-history, one of incremental organising and experimentation. They also had a long afterlife, spawning a new union, a plethora of promises from the state and capital, new institutions for mediating labour relations, repeated threats of industrial action, and, in 2022, a follow-up strike among truck drivers.

Full analysis here.
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