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Magufuli: Ignore debate on presidential term limit

Former president initially agitated for the discussion

January 14, 2018

By Joe Lihundi, The Tranquility News, Arusha

Tanzania President John Magufuli has quashed a Member of Parliament’s proposal to extend the country’s presidential terms from five to seven years as is the case with the neighbouring Rwanda.

The Chemba MP, Mr Juma Nkamia, tabled a motion in Parliament in November last year, pleading with the House to consider extending the presidential terms.

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli

But Dr Magufuli yesterday said the motion, which sparked a heated debate across the country, did not impress him at all, calling on members of his ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and Tanzanians at large to ignore it.

He said the debate should neither sway nor mislead CCM members and Tanzanians, for the motion was not stipulated in both the ruling party and the country’s constitutions.

Dr Magufuli said much as the motion was not raised in meetings of any of the CCM organs so far, the ruling party members and Tanzanians should spare their debate time for the implementation of the party’s 2015 election manifesto instead.

“The President says he has no plan of extending his term limit,” Mr Humphrey Polepole, the CCM Ideology and Publicity Secretary, said at the Magogoni State House where the President had invited him for a conversation.

Mr Nkamia’s motion comes at a time when a wave of electoral law changes in favour of incumbents is sweeping across East Africa with Uganda Parliament scrapping off presidential age limit to allow long-time leader Yoweri Museveni to remain in power.

Just like in Uganda, the motion triggered a political showdown in Tanzania, as the opposition Chadema MP, Mr John Heche, was planning to separately table in Parliament a counter private motion to reduce the presidential term to four years, as is the case with the US.

Fistfights erupted in Uganda Parliament for two days as MPs from the ruling party pushed for the Bill aimed at scrapping off presidential age limit to be introduced. PHOTO | REUTERS

Mr Nkamia’s move came after another MP, Mr Stephen Ngonyani, had suggested in the House that President Magufuli should be allowed to rule for 20 years.

In July, a CCM cadre, Mr Laurence Mabawa, started a social media campaign dubbed “Baki Magufuli” — Stay Magufuli, as he vowed to zoom around the country to ensure President Magufuli’s tenure in office was, by hooks and crooks, extended.

But it was former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi who had initially introduced the idea of extending Dr Magufuli’s tenure in office for four terms in April when he called for a review of the law.

“If it wasn’t for term limits, I would have suggested that Magufuli should be our president for eternity,” he said, explaining that Dr Magufuli needed extra time to forestall discipline in the civil service and enhance access to healthcare.

Mr Mwinyi’s proposal prompted residents of Geita in northwestern Tanzania, the president’s birthplace, to demand amendments to the Constitution to allow Dr Magufuli to serve for 20 years.

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