Saturday, April 10, 2021 8:04 am
By Antony Sguazzin
In her first major speech since taking over from John Magufuli, who died last month, Samia Suluhu Hassan said she’ll end Covid-19 denialism, improve relations with the West and resolve disputes with multinational companies that have invested in Tanzanian mining.
That’s a decisive break from Magufuli’s pugnacious rule and one that was quickly welcomed by the opposition.
Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Photographer: Luke Dray/Getty Images Europe
The former president, known as the ‘bulldozer,’ halted the publication of Covid-19 statistics in May and largely ignored the disease even as hospitals filled with patients displaying its symptoms. He derided the West and even his neighbors, hounded political opponents and threatened a unit of Barrick Gold with a $190 billion tax bill.
Hassan’s decision is a bold one. Magufuli had strong support among voters who appreciated his crackdown on corruption, and the administration she inherited is replete with his allies.
While she appointed her own ministerial choices to the finance and foreign policy posts, Hassan kept in place one of the biggest cheerleaders for Magufuli’s coronavirus stance, Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima.
Without a strong political base of her own, staying in power will be a balancing act. But so far she’s indicated a willingness to take the risks needed to end Tanzania’s isolation.
“We don’t want to go alone,” she said in the speech.
Hassan’s resetting of the country’s attitude toward Covid-19 mirrors what happened in Burundi. The neighboring country’s President, Evariste Ndayishimiye, declared the pandemic its biggest enemy in July, following the death of his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza, who had urged his countrymen to rely on prayers to defeat the disease.
— Antony Sguazzin, Senior reporter for Sub- Saharan Africa at Bloomberg, Johannesburg Area, South Africa