Legacy: Mwinyi's leadership reshaped Tanzania's economy and politics

Darus Salam. Political and financial stakeholders have said that late President Ali Hassan Muvinyi will be remembered for his policies that facilitated the opening up of Tanzania's economy and transition to a pluralist democracy.

President Muvinyi died on February 29, 2024 while receiving treatment for lung cancer at Mzena Hospital in Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan announced his death on national television, marking the end of an era in Tanzania.

Mwinyi, Tanzania's second president, died on March 2.

Born on May 8, 1925, in the coastal region, Muwinyi was born on May 8, 1925, in the coastal region, Ali Hassan Muwinyi was affectionately known as „Mzee Rukhsa” for his liberal economic policies. He worked as a school teacher before entering the political arena. Mwinyi served as President of Tanzania from 1985 to 1995, succeeding the nation's founding father, Julius Nyerere.

Opposition ACT-Wazalendo founder, Zitto Kabwe, spoke separately to The Citizen and compared Mwinyi's leadership to China's Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao Zedong. „Mzee Mwinyi will be remembered for his leadership in bringing about economic and democratic reforms. Tanzanians will miss him,” he said.

Mr Kabwe said that when Mwinyi took office as the second president, the country was in a bad economic state. He convened a committee to submit Economic Reform Plans 1 and 2 and conducted negotiations with donor countries and international organizations.

„Many measures have been taken. President Mwinyi has a shortage of foreign reserves and the economy is shaky, requiring additional major reforms. We will honor him by carrying out these reforms which, among other things, will boost the economy and lower prices for many. Necessary goods, making life easier for citizens,” he said.

However, this change did not go hand in hand with constitutional and legal reforms to lay the foundation for rights, freedoms and equality in multi-party democracy and strong constitutional institutions across the country.

„Let's reach a national consensus on the structure of the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar and the system of governance in Tanzania. During Mzee Mwinyi's time, there was disagreement over the structure of government in Tanzania, namely the union structure. This problem was in the past. It is still present. The constitutional reform process and the comments received by the Warioba Commission leading us towards a national consensus.

Unfortunately, the Special Constituent Assembly of 2014 has left the country at an impasse on this complex matter. He noted: „We will honor him by going through this process until we have a new governing body and a national consensus.”

He said Tanzania should continue to promote the honorable Swahili language. Mzee Mwinyi is a champion in this sense following Nyerere. He said that while Swahili is now recognized globally, Tanzania should establish it as the official language of Africa and promote it as part of international political forums, economic markets, social interaction, cultural competition and the continent's products and services. Digital and online globalization. He felt that the President of the United States must have a specific plan.

For his part, Justice Joseph Warioba said Muvini was best known for advocating political and economic reforms. „The loss of President Mwinyi is profound for the country; he led at a time of extreme unrest.” „It was a time when things happened and things were very difficult,” he noted. East African society was disintegrating at the time, so many steps had to be taken to build other institutions, he continued. The country was in grave danger. The Kagera War consumed all our foreign resources.

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Justice (rtd) Wariopa, who served as Prime Minister from November 5, 1985 to November 9, 1990, elaborated on the political and economic changes.

Lack of foreign capital, shortage of fuel, difficulty in running business, shortage of food made the nation unable to purchase goods. „It is necessary to address both the domestic and global political upheaval and political change movement that took place during those years,” he said. He spoke of Mwinyi's skills at the time, his ability to listen to his assistants. Although Mwinyi appears to be gentle, she makes tough choices.

„Our unity and peace must not be lost,” he declared, adding that he had managed to stabilize the economy in the first five years and oversee political developments in subsequent years, all in difficult circumstances.

During his stay, Mwinyi showed courage, noted his colleague Stephen Wazira. „I knew Mzee Mwinyi when I was a boy; Mzee Mwinyi was already the Minister of Health in Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's first term and entered the Tanzanian Parliament at the age of 25,” he said. According to him, during his presidency, Mwinyi appointed him as Deputy Minister of Local Government and Cooperatives where he assisted Ngombale Mwiru. Later, in 1989-1990, he was elevated as Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Cooperatives. Wazira was appointed as the Regional Commissioner for the Coast region following the 1990 national elections.

Mwinyi took over the country when it was in dire straits and it was difficult to meet the needs of the people, which is why he allowed the people to import goods from abroad. „This is a great loss; I accept it with sadness as Mzee Mwinyi has contributed significantly to the history and development of Tanzania,” he said.

The president of the Civic United Front (CUF), Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, said the loss was significant for the nation, especially in light of the economic changes. He said that when President Mwinyi took office in 1985, Tanzania's economic situation was dire; He initiated economic reforms due to the country's large debts, and began importing goods to address shortages of key commodities. He initiated political system reforms in the country by appointing the Francis Nyalali Commission, which advocated a multi-party democratic system, but proposed constitutional changes to allow for such a system.

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Abel KInyondo, an economist at the Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE), believes Mwinyi will act as a bridge in the country's economic reforms. He said Mwinyi came to power at a time when the economy was in decline. „We faced a drought, and prices increased because oil-producing countries decided to cut their sales, and today, more countries are producing oil, compared to back then,” he said.

At that time, he said, the economy suffered one shock after another and Tanzania's plan to respond to these shocks began in 1982. „When Mwinyi came to power, he faced many challenges like lack of dollar, food, petroleum products. That is why he was the economic bridge to our economy today,” he said.

He said Mwinyi brought the World Bank's structural adjustment program that gutted the public sector and the IMF's stabilization policies aimed at stabilizing the shilling against the dollar and subsidies for agriculture.

„Structural adjustment programs led to many industries moving to the private sector, cutting staff. It was not 100 percent perfect; it had its difficulties; some organizations died, people lost their jobs, but they got us to where we are now,” he said.

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