/ 14 February 2008

New Tanzanian Cabinet faces vast challenges

A new, leaner Cabinet for Tanzania was sworn in Wednesday, its predecessor having fallen apart last week amid a corruption scandal.

The team of 47 Cabinet ministers and their deputies is smaller than the outgoing Cabinet of about 60. This is the result of several ministries merging and the elimination of certain positions, President Jakaya Kikwete announced on Tuesday in the capital, Dodoma, during a live broadcast on state radio.

The mergers include the Ministry of Planning and Economic Empowerment being amalgamated with the Finance Department, and the integration of home affairs with public safety and security.

Key changes include the appointment of Mustafa Mukolo as Minister of Finance to take over from Zakhia Meghji, and William Ngeleja to head the energy and minerals portfolio. His predecessor, Nazir Karamagi, resigned last week. Mukolo and Ngeleja were formerly deputy ministers in their respective departments.

Kikwete dissolved his last Cabinet on February 7 after Edward Lowassa stepped down as prime minister. He and other lawmakers, including Karamagi, were implicated in a $179-million corruption scandal.

A parliamentary inquiry found that a contract had been awarded to a United States-based electricity company, Richmond, as a result of political influence and in contravention of procurement rules. The firm subsequently failed to honour its obligations, even though Tanzania paid out thousands of dollars every day for its services.

In another graft scandal, Kikwete fired Bank of Tanzania governor Daudi Ballali last month over $116-million in irregular payments.

Kikwete was elected to power in 2005, with the fight against graft a central plank of his campaign. In the latest Corruption Perceptions Index, compiled annually by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International, Tanzania is ranked joint 94th (alongside Madagascar, Panama and Sri Lanka) out of the 179 countries surveyed.

Greater effectiveness

The new, streamlined Cabinet is better able to deliver effective government, British high commissioner to Tanzania Philip Parham said on Tuesday at a public event in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital.

Ministers will face significant challenges in improving life for citizens: the East African nation is one of the world’s poorest countries, with more than one-third of its population of 38-million living below the poverty line of $1 a day, according to the United Nations.

However, the new Cabinet has come under fire for its lack of gender balance. Women only make up about 25% of the team, compared with about 30% in the previous Cabinet.

“I’m not happy, because the gains women have made in the political arena are now falling behind,” said Ananilea Nkya, executive director of the Tanzania Media Women’s Association, based in Dar es Salaam. “We like to see at least 30%, in line with the SADC [Southern African Development Community] objective,” she added.

SADC’s 1997 Declaration on Gender and Development set a goal of having 30% of decision-making posts in member states occupied by women by 2005. Few countries in SADC reached this target; however, it was later adjusted to 50% of decision-making posts.

Other significant changes to the Cabinet include the appointment of Hussein Ali Mwinyi as Defence and National Service Minister (Mwinyi was previously minister of state in the vice-president’s office), and former justice and constitutional affairs minister Mary Nagu to head the Industry, Trade and Marketing Department.

Infrastructure Development Minister Andrew Chenge, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Bernard Membe and Health and Social Welfare Minister David Mwakyusa have retained their portfolios.

Legislators voted in Mizengo Pinda as the new Prime Minister on February 8. He was previously minister for regional administration and local government.

The appointment of the new Cabinet comes only days before US President George Bush’s February 16 to 19 visit to Tanzania — part of a five-nation tour in Africa. The American leader is spending most of his tour in Tanzania to highlight development gains in the country, described as a “success story” by US embassy public-affairs officer Jeffery Salaiz. — IPS