President Magufuli bans Uhuru

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President John Magufuli

DAR ES SALAAM- President John Magufuli has ordered a cancellation of this year’s Uhuru Day (Independence Day) celebrations in yet another shock move aimed at reigning
in unnecessary public expenditure.
In a statement yesterday, the President said funds meant for the Uhuru fete would instead be used for a major clean-up campaign aimed at stemming the spread of cholera in the country.
Tanzania celebrates her independence from British rule annually on December 9.
“It’s so shameful that we are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of self-rule while our people are dying of cholera,” the President said in
a statement read by the Chief Secretary Ombeni Sefue.
While the Chief Secretary did not say how much money had been budgeted for this year’s Uhuru fete, the event itself  is a red-carpet affair normally marked by elaborate celebrations
including a military parade at the
National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
In the three weeks since he assumed office, President Magufuli has imposed a form of austerity on the country’s famously free-spending civil servants,
warning in his maiden speech to the National Assembly Friday that days of misuse of public funds were over.
Across the country, the majority of
Tanzanians seem to have welcomed the raft of austerity measures President
Magufuli has announced since his
inauguration on November 5.
But his latest move will surprise many, who, each year, religiously look forward to celebrating Independence Day in style.
Hundreds of millions of shillings are spent on the celebrations each year across the country. And a good portion of the budget is sunk in travel and per diems for public officials.
“The message he (the President) is
sending is that it’s not true that
Tanzania does not have money to
improve public service delivery,
resources are just not being directed to projects that can change the lives of people,” said University of Dar es Salaam political science lecturer Dr Benson Bana.
In an interview with The Citizen , Dr
Bana said the idea was long overdue,
adding that government executives
should take this as yet another austerity lesson.
But some opposition leaders have
dismissed the President’s decision as a ‘non-event’ in the fight to overhaul public service delivery. “You cannot get rid of cholera by stopping an event like this. It’s the whole system that must change,” said Mr James Mbatia, chairman of the opposition NCCR-Mageuzi.
The opposition leader said it’s sad that Tanzania was ranked 138 out 160 countries in the water and sanitation catergory under the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs). “These statistics tell us why cholera persists,” he said.
But Mr Sefue expressed hope that the December 9 clean-up campaign and other social services to be made public soon would go a long way in addressing public health concerns.
“The Head of State says he does not want to hear anything like people dying of cholera starting December 9th,” Mr Sefue said.
The Chief Secretary toured the
country’s main referral hospital in a follow-up visit to assess progress made in implementing President Magufuli’s
directives for reform.
He said the President was saddened by the fact that Tanzanians were losing their lives due to diseases that could be controlled by simply cleaning their
surroundings.
“The President has directed all regional leaders to oversee the clean-up exercise in their areas on that day,” he said.
Regional and district commissioners as well as local government leaders will administer the programme.
Over the years, there has been
increasing public outcry over huge
amounts of money unnecessarily spent on the celebrations.
In 2011, the government reportedly
spent about Sh64 billion on
celebrations to mark Tanzania
Mainland’s 50th independence
anniversary.
The money was mainly used in
organising exhibitions by ministries and government agencies.
The grand gala that marked the climax of the event was held at the Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
Critics believe senior government
officials use the celebrations to
embezzle public funds.
But echoing the President’s recent
remarks against free spending in the civil service, Mr Sefue warned “it will not be business as usual in government”.

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