Self-exiled Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu has exuded confidence that the country’s incoming president, Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan, will likely steer the East African giant away from her predecessor’s “disastrous” policies.
Speaking to Kenya’s television station, KTN, from Belgium on Thursday morning, March 18, Lissu said that VP Suluhu has a different vision for Tanzania from that of the late President John Magufuli who died on Wednesday night, March 17.
“I don’t think the temperament is the same. I don’t think the vision is the same…I served with both in the National Assembly for five years from 2010 to 2015. I was in the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Committee. She was my minister and I know her well enough to know she is temperamentally different” said Lissu of Suluhu.
The opposition leader, who has been living in exile since an attempt on his life, said the new leader must take “the rare opportunity” afforded by Magufuli’s death to save the country from dictatorship and disaster.
He said Magufuli’s biggest weakness was his failure to tolerate any form of criticism.
“He took everything so personally. His word became the law of the land,” said Lissu, who refused to accept the results of the presidential election that was held on October 28, 2020, because of alleged voting irregularities.
The opposition figure is optimistic that Suluhu will reach out to victims of Magufuli’s intolerance and political purge, leading to the creation of a national reconciliation program.
“She has no choice. If she goes the way of Magufuli, she will go to a dead-end. The choice is to stop the country from going to the brink of disaster and chart a new course,” said Lissu.
A member of Tanzania’s Chadema party, Lissu was wounded in a gun attack at his home in Dodoma in September 2017, an assassination attempt he claimed was orchestrated by the government for his critical criticism.
However, in a statement released to the public, the late Magufuli condemned the incident as “cruel and inhuman”, distancing his government from the attack.
Nonetheless, no love was lost between the two Tanzanian leaders with Lissu’s recent commentary on the happenings in the East African country appearing almost celebratory.
“I am not celebrating and neither am I mourning,” Lissu told KTN on March 18 during the morning interview in which he claimed that the Tanzanian government is still lying about Magufuli’s cause of death.
Lissu said that Magufuli died from coronavirus despite authorities in Tanzania claiming that the leader succumbed to heart-related complications in a Dar es Salaam hospital.
Magufuli had denied the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and publicly urged Tanzanians not to rely on science but turn to prayers and traditional herbs for a cure.
His absence from the public eye for nearly three weeks fueled rumours of his sickness with many concluding that he had contracted Covid-19, especially after the death of senior government officials with whom he had been in close contact.
Suluhu is a highly-educated leader who holds two post-graduate diplomas in public administration and economics from the Institute of Development Management and University of Manchester.
She obtained her Master of Science Degree in Community Economic Development from a joint programme between Open University of Tanzania and Southern New Hampshire University.