By Tundu AM Lissu (MP)
More than sixty four years ago, on 21st September 1953, Nelson Mandela, then serving a ban from attending public meetings, and eleven years before he's imprisoned for life, wrote the following message to the Transvaal Provincial Party Congress of the ANC:
"There's no easy road to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we can reach the mountaintops of our desires."
These words were written before the ANC was banned by the apartheid regime in 1960.
They're written before the Treason Trial involving Mandela and others of 1956-1960.
And they're written before Mandela's arrest in 1962, and the eventual Rivonia Trial, which saw him and his eight colleagues sent to Robben Island for life.
TANZANIA IN TATTERS
What Mandela said of the Boer regime then has become true of Tanzania today.
In the two years since President Magufuli took office, hundreds of opposition leaders and activists have been arrested, thrown in police dungeons and or charged with spurious sedition offences.
Many have been tortured in secret locations or murdered and thrown into the sea to be washed out to the beaches later on.
No investigations whatever have been conducted, or otherwise made public, to account for these killings.
Numerous others, artists, journalists, etc., have been abducted, tortured and later released without charge.
Tanzanians, long used to expressing their views freely and publicly, now find themselves arrested and charged in courts for uttering 'careless statements', opinion mildly critical of the Big Man or his government.
Others, such as a CHADEMA activist and blogger, Ben Saanane and a Mwananchi newspaper reporter, have completely disappeared in circumstances that suggest abduction and murder.
Again, no investigations or information into the disappearances have been forthcoming.
Political parties have had their legitimate activities proscribed by presidential fiat.
Political meetings have been broken by police and their leaders arrested.
Opposition parliamentarians, such as this author, have been arrested multiple times within the precincts of Parliament, for statements made in connection with their responsibilities as members and opposition politicians.
A slew of legislation, ranging from cyber crime, telecommunications and statistics have become the weapons of choice in this war against free speech.
In fact, this author writes this from a hospital bed in Nairobi, Kenya, after surviving a brutal assassination attempt on 7th September 2017.
No one has been arrested, charged or even suspected in connection with the brutal attack, carried out in broad daylight inside a guarded government housing compound.
Newspapers and radio stations that publish or broadcast news critical of the regime have been banned or suspended.
The business community and foreign investors, once touted as the key drivers of our national economy, have been squeezed hard, with their properties illegally seized or sequestered.
Many have fled or scaled down on their investment. Thousands of workers have, as a result, been laid off.
Such is the consequent economic hardship across the country that Magufuli himself has ordered the arrest of those who complain that 'vyuma vimekaza', a slang for dire economic straights facing the country and people!
The public service is in turmoil, as ranking civil servants are fired in political rallies without even a pretence of due process.
Universities and other institutions of higher learning are under siege, as academic freedom, the raison d'etre of the university, has all but disappeared.
TAKING ON THE CHURCH
Now, the Magufuli regime has opened another war front, this time against the Church and other religious institutions.
After a series of critical pastoral letters and Christmas homilies critical of the regime's authoritarianism, Magufuli's government has basically told the Bishops to shut up at the pain of having their churches struck off from the register.
His responsible Permanent Secretary, a Major General at that, has officially decried the tendency by religious leaders to 'analyse political issues' during prayer services. His message is clear: shut up or you're out of business.
Thus far a Bishop is being sought for arrest by the police, for making allegedly seditious statements against the President during his Christmas message to his congregation.
Another, a President of the powerful Tanzania Episcopal Conference, has reportedly been summoned by immigration officers to explain his citizenship, after he also fell foul of the 'New Normal' under Magufuli by criticising his government.
WHAT'S TO BE DONE???
By all accounts, the two years of the Magufuli regime have been an unprecedented national disaster.
We're in middle of the valley of the shadow of death that Nelson Mandela spoke of in 1953.
We must strive to pass through this valley and emerge on the other side.
We must hold the bull of this regime by the horns. We must oppose it anywhere and everywhere.
We must denounce its crimes to the international community. We must strive to make Magufuli and his henchmen the skunks of this world.
To do all this we require a maximum of unity, discipline and seriousness of purpose.
Taking opposition politics as a part-time hobby will not suffice. Thinking that it's risk free is foolhardy, if not suicidal.
We must hope for the best and at the same time prepare for the worst.
Time is on our side. The regime has offended every important section of the Tanzanian masses.
In spite of all the propaganda and lies fed on the wananchi, they remain largely defiant.
The regime couldn't be more isolated from its people and even within the wider East African region given Magufuli's erratic behaviour.
All the masses need now is a leadership that's not scared to lead. A leadership that not only exposes the rottenness of this regime, but also teaches the masses how to rid themselves of the rot. We must provide that leadership.
It's imperative that we create a broad national coalition, a movement of all those who see no future but disaster ahead under the current system.
Given Magufuli's propensity for making enemies, this may not be as difficult a task as some might think. It just needs creativity, honesty and a sense of purpose.
As I recuperate from the multiple gunshot wounds received from those sent to kill me, I continue to be absolutely convinced that the future is ours if we can organise ourselves along the lines suggested here.
I'll continue to write these 'Letters From Nairobi Hospital Bed' as long as my condition allows.
I wish you all Happy New Year 2018.