Tanzania fact of the day

Since coming to power in the country of 55m on the east coast of Africa in 2015, Mr Magufuli, nicknamed “the bulldozer” from his time as roads minister, has bashed foreign-owned businesses with impossible tax demands, ordered pregnant girls to be kicked out of school, shut down newspapers and locked up “immoral” musicians who criticise him. A journalist and opposition party members have disappeared, political rallies have been banned and mutilated bodies have washed up on the shores of Coco Beach in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital. Mr Magufuli is fast transforming Tanzania from a flawed democracy into one of Africa’s more brutal dictatorships. It is a lesson in how easily weak institutions can be hijacked and how quickly democratic progress can be undone.

…The main lesson of Tanzania is that constitutions which concentrate power in the presidency can quickly be subverted.

Here is more from The Economist.

Comments

I love the phrase "flawed democracy". It says so much in so few words.

The article notably omits Tanzania's official self-description of "constitutional socialist republic."

Please expand.

From here in Malawi I get mixed reports on Magafuli, low level corruption has gone down drastically but this has led to those lower level officials, mostly police, being more strict with enforcement of petty offences and more delays which annoys people. Remember corruption greases wheels here that are so dysfunctional that they can barely turn without it. Still a little house cleaning is not always a bad thing. I know of one foreign owned company that was engaging in massive tax fraud there that has now been stopped. With Magafuli's rise the question was always going to be, as is normally the case here, what are the intentions behind the purging. We are always hopeful but rarely optimistic. On the other hand shake ups in the long run are probably better than stagnation, kind of like the republican/democrat pendulum in the USA.

"The main lesson of Tanzania is that constitutions which concentrate power in the presidency can quickly be subverted" -- is that the main lesson, or is the main lesson same old same old, that an entire continent can remain perpetually backwards? Maybe the solution has less to do with the silly policy recommendations we see year after year in the likes of The Economist, and more to do with serious and massive investment in biological enhancements, despite the "problematic" optics that such an undertaking would entail.

ItWearsOneDown, what do you have in mind when you talk about the need for "investment in biological enhancements"?

Africa Wins Again.

It is a lesson in how easily weak institutions can be hijacked and how quickly democratic progress can be undone.
Institutions are made by men and changed by them according to circumstances. http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/

The main lesson of Tanzania is that constitutions which concentrate power in the presidency can quickly be subverted.

I am sure they were thinking about Macron. Ultimately politics is culture. Tanzania has a lot of things, but a democratic culture does not seem to be one of them.

Mr Magufuli, nicknamed “the bulldozer” from his time as roads minister, has bashed foreign-owned businesses with impossible tax demands, ordered pregnant girls to be kicked out of school, shut down newspapers and locked up “immoral” musicians who criticise him.

Pregnant girls kicked out of schools? I am going to enjoy listening to the Left defend this man. Which they will have to. In the old days, African socialists pretended to share values with Western socialists - and as Tanzania's Collective Farms and One Party state show, they probably did. Now? Not so much. I guess they are not taking their cues from Moscow any more.

Funny how Tyler and the Economist neglect to mention that the man and his party are socialists.

Because if there is one thing you can count on in life, it is that a GMU econ dept. faculty member is a true dyed in the wool socialist always willing to help the proletariat advance into its glorious future.

Prior's embarrassingly irrelevant attempted distraction just provides an opportunity to emphasize: Magufuli is a socialist, leading a socialist party, in a country with a long history of socialism. The suggestion that there is a Trump-related lesson here is insulting to Tyler's readers.

Learn a little history. The ruling party in Tanzania, the CCM, has not been socialist in orientation in more than a generation, since the end of the Nyrere era. It is an explicitly neo-liberal, market-oriented party and the present venality of the leadership stands in contrast to the low corruption of the Nyrere generation.

It is interesting to consider this statement "how easily weak institutions can be hijacked and how quickly democratic progress can be undone." in the context of the recent post from Scott Sumner on Singapore, which actually prospered incredibly well under a fairly autocratic ruler vs most African states which don't seem to prosper under either democratic or authoritarian rule. In fact most of South-East Asia seems to be fairly resistant to the type of ruler - even a country like North Korea, which pursues the most crazy economic policies can still develop missile technologies which are far beyond any African country's capabilities (except for South Africa probably during Apartheid days). I think this is the real problem with the "institutions" theory about development, even as a necessary but not sufficient component they don't seem to make that much difference.

Agree.

Institutions (and politics) are downstream from culture. If North Korea emerged from dictatorship, it would be wealthier than most (all?) African countries within ten years. Nuclear family units, civil society before tribal affiliation and a predisposition to delayed gratification found in cultures with cold winters are far more important than another constitution.

that's why Trump, and other politicians who attack the justice system, should be impeached before it's too late.
as Kasparov said of Putin: "be careful who you vote for, as it could be your last free election".

Assassination attempts on members of Congress, violent suppression of dissenting views in the schools, collusion with foreign entities while engaging in McCarthy-style scare-mongering, promises to lock down campaign speech -- this is what we've seen from the Resistance when it's out of power. Imagine what's coming if it gets in.

Yes, it's us and our own "bulldozer" that Cowen has in mind, like the sacking of the poor Mr. McCabe by the department head Mr. Sessions to "enforce the highest standards" referenced in the prior blog post. Cowen is on a roll.

'poor Mr. McCabe' should be content that he's not in prison. Yet.

McCabe broke the law and lied under oath, according to the findings of Obama-era appointees within the FBI’s ethics oversight department.

And McCabe was lying at the same time he was trying to jail Flynn and others for lying. Unless you want separate las for the rulers and the ruled, you should applaud his dismissal.

Tanzania’s (rapidly growing but poor) population is now about Italy’s, and quickly approaching that of France or the UK. The population in 1950 was about 8 million.

Odds are that many of them will eventually find their way to Italy and France. Mass migration across the Mediterranean from overpopulated poor nations to depopulating and defenceless welfare states is just getting started.

It's sad how we lost so much because of colonialism or whatever that dumb phrase was.

I find these kinds of comments glib at best. And I still think that if I were born, with my same nature and abilities, in a country with poor education and prospects, I would not miraculously rise above. Would I even get eyeglasses?

Too many people who benefit from generations of government schools, stable government, reliable courts, think they pulled themselves up to civilization by their bootstraps.

Like the guy who started with a "small inheritance" of one hundred million dollars.

That's because I was being glib, so congratulations. Your glibness detector is in tip top shape.

"Like the guy who started with a “small inheritance” of one hundred million dollars."

Fred died in 1999. Trump was already much richer than his father when he got his inheritance.

Wait, that happened to Trump too? Poor guy. What a humble beginning.

Too many people who benefit from generations of government schools, stable government, reliable courts, think they pulled themselves up to civilization by their bootstraps.

Indeed. We stand among the glories created by our ancestors and denounce White Privilege.

If only Tanzania had some of that magic meteor metal. Or perhaps Western colonialists who are willing to devote the time and effort to providing things like eye glasses. As they used to.

Only a true idiot congratulates himself for picking rich parents, or the lucky country of birth.

Of course I was doing neither. But does it then follow from your logic that only an idiot condemns others for picking poor parents or an unucky country or even worse, an unpopular color of skin?

You poor guy. Read it again. I was putting myself in those shoes, not holding myself, and my privileged experience, apart.

Dude. That is two non-responses. Would you like to try again?

That's funny. The idea that you could put yourself in their shoes and see their obstacles just bounces off your bubble.

"I love the phrase “flawed democracy”. It says so much in so few words." I prefer the phrase attributed to the late, mostly unlamented Suharto of Indonesia. He referred to his country, and his administration of it, as a "guided" democracy.

Nonetheless, blaming this power-grab on a constitution that invests much power in the executive is simply wrong. Tanzania adopted its present constitution in 1996; it's not as if it has some long history of democratic self-rule.

The lesson here is that when a people are not all that invested in maintaining democratic rule then it will not be maintained.

The obvious soluion is for Tanzania to restore parliamentary democracy under the rule of the Queen. That's what the US should do as well.

"he main lesson of Tanzania is that constitutions which concentrate power in the presidency can quickly be subverted"

The main lessons is that institutions don't exist - values do. Longterm democracy is a test of collective values: are people willing to work within the rules even when it does not directly benefit them? No human group does a superb job of this, but some do considerably better than others.

Tanzania, like just about every other African country, fails this test as the collective values revolve around tribal loyalties and subservience to big men.

The main lessons is that institutions don’t exist – values do.

You're giving us a lesson that political events are an occasion for people to recite the song in their head, no matter how little sense the lyrics make.

Actually the song that's been in my head today is "Gary Indiana" (from the Music Man)

Make of that what you will....

Strong Presidential systems are bad for democracy, and nearly all of them have led to authoritarian regimes at some point (the US and the Fifth Republic in France being the rare exceptions).

Actually, the autogolpe is an unusual phenomenon and seldom long-term. Authoritarianism in Latin America has generally been praetorian or Peronist in character in the last century.

Globally, autogolpes don’t seem that unusual what with Maldive last month and Cambodia last year. Maduro’s December 6, 2016 autocoup shows no sign of flagging and is likely to take Venezuela down for a long time. In 2009, the Prime Minister of Niger attempted an autocoup but was defeated by the military which promptly held an election and restored civilian rule. Niger’s success one could argue was in part attributable to its having a multiparty legislative body rather than a 1 or 2 party system. I predict that despite the CCM’s current dominance in the National Assembly of Tanzania, the ability of voters to turn to other parties will keep Magufuli from serving past 2020.

Tanzania is a pluralistic political-machine state. The current boss is less benevolent than the two previous bosses. That is regrettable, but it's a reasonable wager not a permanent condition. The political order is still more congenial than it was at any time under Julius Nyrerere's decades-long rule. (See the forced assembly into ujamaa villages during the period running from 1972 to 1976. Bloody business).

From the vantage point of someone who has spent several years in Tanzania (including two years in a rural village), I want to point out a few misleading statements and important omissions that give an inaccurate view of the situation in this country, and which require some qualification.

First, Western liberals i.e. staff writers at the Economist have a weird tendency to conflate FDI inflows with political liberalism. Tanzania has never been politically liberal. It is and always has been an authoritarian state, and all like all such states has maintained control through a discrete and variable mix of coercion and consent. What is occurring now is a tactical shift by CCM toward coercion, not some sort of fundamental shift in the nature regime from a “flawed democracy” to a “brutal dictatorship”. The Economist’s vaunted ‘democratic transition’ was always a chimera: the function of multi-party elections introduced in 1995 was to placate international donors and, much more importantly, to alleviate the commitment and monitoring problems inherent to authoritarian regimes. There has never been any question of transition of power away from CCM. The most recent 2015 elections were the most contested in national history, with CCM’s share of the national vote falling below 60% (the Party is genuinely popular at the grassroots), and my suspicion is that this relatively poor showing has occasioned the present pivot of the regime.

A second dynamic worth keeping an eye on is the possibility that what we are observing is not a transition from a “flawed democracy” to a “brutal dictatorship”, but from a relatively institutionalized party-dictatorship to a highly personalized dictatorship under President Magufuli. A similar thing is going on in China, and the same concern applies: personal dictatorships are inherently less stable than highly institutionalized party-dictatorships. At present I think CCM’s internal politics are too opaque for any of us on the outside to really observe what is going on, but on the news every night I am seeing Magufuli go to great lengths to project an image of himself as an undisputed patriarch – which again would indicate the construction of a personalized dictatorship. This is also what Tanzanians are saying on the street – “CCM belongs to Magufuli” is something I have heard a few times.

Third, this article misconstrues the state of economy. It’s true that the government’s claims against Acacia Mining are prima facie ridiculous. But with the little game theory the government’s moves might also be more charitably interpreted as an opening bid in a bargaining process between the government and foreign investors. This has naturally hurt business confidence among foreign investors, but not as much as the article suggests. And the gambit raises the possibility of prospect of higher government receipts in order help plug growth-reducing government arrears to mainly domestic firms (classic African government incompetency). At any rate, the economy’s fundamentals look good: rapid GDP growth; narrow current account deficit; low inflation & stable exchange rate; lots of good projects coming online e.g. Dar port, natural gas, oil pipeline from Uganda; finally, global growth is picking up and prices for Tanzania’s primary commodity exports are rising. Perhaps a little economic nationalism is not as unambiguously crazy as staff writers for the Economist tend to think?

Comments for this post are closed