Tanzania: Magufuli calls off independence celebrations over Cholera epidemic

POPULIST APPROACH: President John Magufuli is trying to put the people first

POPULIST APPROACH: President John Magufuli is trying to put the people first

Tanzania is due to celebrate 54 years of independence Wednesday December 9, but instead of nationwide festivities, Tanzanians will mark the day cleaning their localities in an effort to fight the deadly Cholera pandemic, the State House has announced.

Chief Secretary Ambassador Ombeni Sefue said Monday, President John Magufuli has ordered Tanzania’s highly—celebrated event be marked differently this year to combat Cholera, a disease that has thus far claimed 106 lives.

Tanzania observes at least 17 public (political and religious) holidays every year including but the newly elected presidents wants to cut down on the celebrations especially when the country is facing tough times.

“This is not acceptable. We cannot go-on to celebrate 54 years of independence while people are dying of cholera,” the Chief Secretary told a press at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

Late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere led the East African nation to Independence from Britain on 9th December 1961.

During his election campaign, Magufuli was critical of public offices the number of holidays and things like special weeks or months to create awareness on various issues.

“This will not be accepted during my leadership,” he told supporters on the campaign trail. Now twenty in office, Magufuli is making good on his promise by cancelling Independence Day celebrations and sanctioning earmarked funds for the event to be allocated to “important” national business like fighting Cholera.

The State House says Magufuli is concerned poor hygiene and untidy environment are partly to blame for the spread of Cholera hence Regional and District Commissioners have been tasked to make all possible preparations to facilitate to make sure residents engage in communal cleaning exercise.

According to the Chief Secretary, after 9th December, any region or district that registers a new Cholera case will have to report directly to the president.

It was not immediately established how much money had been set aside for this year’s independence anniversary, and how much the president’s new cleaning initiative will cost.

The Cholera crisis has been exacerbated by the influx of Burundian refugees fleeing the conflict in their country. Tanzania is home to more than 20, 000 Burundian refugees.

The decision to cancel Independence celebrations is the latest move the new leader has taken to ensure noticeable change from his predecessor Jakaya Kikwete.

Early this month, two days after taking the oath of office, President Magufuli banned foreign travel for top government officials including ministers instead dispatching them to local communities to consult with the people about their pressing problems.

John Magufuli, 56, of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) won last month’s election by over 58% of the vote beating his opposition opponent Edward Lowassa of Chadema and UKAWA opposition alliance.
Lowasa, who garnered 40% has joined with other opposition leaders to declined being part of the current government alleging Magufuli is not the legitimate president.

They allege the National Electoral Commission and the ruling party connived to “doctor” the results that put him on the top.

The opposition have since denounced the country’s legal system that does not allow for an election result challenge.