Mwinyi, Ali Hassan 1925—
Ali Hassan Mwinyi 1925—
President of Tanzania
Tanzania is an East African nation that was formed in 1964 by the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, a group of islands off the coast that, under the terms of the union, remains semi-autonomous, electing its own president and legislature. Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam, is a port city on the Indian Ocean, and the country shares borders with Kenya to the northeast; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Zaire to the north and west; and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. Transport routes through Tanzania to its port cities offer central African nations an alternative to transport through South Africa.
Executive powers in Tanzania are vested in a president who is nominated by the sole legal political party, the Revolutionary Party of Tanzania (CCM, Chamo Cha Mapinduzi). The presidential candidate runs unopposed for office and is elected by direct popular vote. Under the most recent constitutional amendments, the presidential term is renewable only once. Since the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, Tanzania has had only two presidents. Julius Nyerere, president of Tanganyika since independence in 1961 and then of Tanzania, stepped down in 1985 and was succeeded by Ali Hassan Mwinyi, who was re-elected for a second term in 1990.
Mwinyi, a devout Moslem, was born in 1925 on the mainland, but his family moved to the island of Zanzibar when he was very young. He entered politics in 1963, leaving his post as principal of the Zanzibar Teacher Training College to become permanent secretary to the minister of education in Zanzibar. In 1970 he was appointed to the Tanzanian cabinet as minister of state in the president’s office. He held various government posts in succeeding years, including minister of health and home affairs (1982-83) and minister of natural resources and tourism (1982-83); he also served as ambassador to Egypt for five years.
In April 1984, Mwinyi was elected president of Zanzibar and chairman of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council. Later that year he was also elected as vice-chairman of the ruling party, CCM. In May 1984, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of CCM proceeded with proposals to change the constitution, reviving the system of two vice-presidents that had lapsed in 1977. Under this system, the president of Tanzania appoints two vice-presidents,
Born on May 8, 1925, in Kivure, Tanganyika; raised in Zanzibar (which joined with Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania). Education: Trained to be a teacher. Religion: Moslem.
Began professional life as a teacher, became principal at the Zanzibar Teacher Training College. Entered politics in 1963, became permanent secretary to the minister of education in Zanzibar; appointed to the Tanzanian cabinet as minister of state in the president’s office, 1970; held various government posts in succeeding years, including minister of health and home affairs, 1982-83, and minister of natural resources and tourism, 1982-83; also served as ambassador to Egypt for five years; elected president of Zanzibar and chairman of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council, 1984; elected vice-chairman of Tanzania’s ruling party, CCM, 1984; adopted as the sole presidential candidate by the CCM and elected, 1985; re-elected to a second term in October 1990; became chair of the ruling CCM, 1990.
one being the president of Zanzibar and the other the prime minister of the Tanzanian government.
When Mwinyi was elected president of Zanzibar, he also became Nyerere’s vice-president. The system of two vice-presidents was adopted, in part, to more precisely define Zanzibar’s relationship to the mainland within the union. It was hoped that the system would help put an end to secessionist tendencies in Zanzibar, and the constitutional change also consolidated Mwinyi’s political position.
The complete integration of Zanzibar into the mainland was one of Nyerere’s primary goals. As president of Zanzibar (1984-85), Mwinyi helped maintain Zanzibar’s tenuous link to the mainland at a time when Tanzania’s pervasive economic problems caused the islands to question the value of the union. He improved relations with the mainland and succeeded in calming fears that the quasi-autonomy of the islands (Zanzibar and Pemba) was being eroded through constitutional changes.
Mwinyi succeeded Zanzibar’s President Jumbe, who was forced to resign to take responsibility for the growth of secessionist sentiments in Zanzibar. Mwinyi had been Jumbe’s minister of state and was considered a moderate. He sought to reconcile Zanzibar to the union by introducing economic reforms that allowed market forces a larger role than CCM’s socialist policies would normally permit. These reforms generally improved the standard of living in the islands. However, tensions between Zanzibar and the mainland would continue even after Mwinyi had become president of Tanzania.
Mwinyi’s moderate political stance—together with circumstance—helped to propel him into Tanzania’s presidency. After Nyerere had once again reaffirmed his intention to step down, his heir apparent, Prime Minister Edward Sokoine, was killed in April of 1984. Mwinyi was then appointed to fill the vacancy of vice-president of Tanzania and vice-chairman of the ruling CCM. Mwinyi was elected to the latter post in the August 1984 extraordinary Party National Conference, where he received 96 percent of the delegates’ votes and defeated six other candidates.
On August 15, 1985, President Nyerere announced to the special conference of the CCM that Mwinyi would be the sole candidate to succeed him in the October elections. Nyerere introduced him as the party candidate by saying he’s “a righteous man, impartial and respectful, [who] has never sought fame or used his position to advance ambition.” Commentators regarded Mwinyi as a compromise candidate who was chosen over Salim Ahmed Salim, the prime minister who succeeded Sokoine and who was from Zanzibar, and Rashidi Mfaume Kawawa, the party’s secretary-general and a mainlander who was a Nyerere loyalist. Both of these candidates were unacceptable to certain factions within the CCM’s executive committee.
Mwinyi and Nyerere together campaigned hard, even though Mwinyi was the sole candidate for president. Nyerere believed it was necessary for the country to rally behind its new president. In the October elections, Mwinyi received 92.2 percent of the votes. His successor as president of Tanzania was Idris Abdul Wakil, who thus also became one of Tanzania’s vice-presidents. Interestingly, Wakil only received 61 percent of the votes cast, reflecting his unpopularity with the residents of the island of Pemba.
Since both the new president (Mwinyi) and the prime minister (Salim) were from Zanzibar, the constitution prevented Salim from being prime minister and first vice-president. When he was sworn in as president in November 1985, Mwinyi appointed mainlander Joseph Warioba as prime minister and first vice-president and created the position of deputy prime minister for Salim Salim. The cabinet remained largely unchanged.
Mwinyi faced serious economic problems when he assumed the presidency. The currency was overpriced, and the country’s external debt had reached $3 billion. The most basic goods were unavailable in Tanzania’s shops. The socialist policies of Nyerere and the CCM, which included widespread nationalization, were generally recognized as unsuccessful. Mwinyi described Tanzania’s economic problems of that time by saying that agricultural production was low and farmers could not produce enough food for the country’s citizens. The volume of cash crops (tea, coffee, cotton, sisal) was falling each year, resulting in a shortage of foreign exchange. Tanzania was thus forced to import massive amounts of food from abroad at a time when the country had no money to pay for it.
In addition, Tanzania’s economic infrastructure had fallen into disrepair: roads had deteriorated, hospitals had no drugs, schools had no books. The external debt was mounting, so Mwinyi sought to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with which Tanzania had been negotiating for six years. One of Mwinyi’s first actions upon becoming president was to enter into an agreement with the IMF to abandon socialism and remodel the Tanzanian economy along free-market lines. Although opposed by Nyerere and the CCM, the IMF agreement allowed capital to flow, however slowly, into the country.
As a result of the agreement, donor nations agreed to debt rescheduling, and some nations wrote off Tanzania’s debts completely. In 1986, the Paris Club, a loosely knit group of Tanzania’s donor nations and institutions, agreed to reschedule Tanzania’s accumulated matured debts of about $900 million, suspending payment for five years on 97.5 percent of the loan principal and interest. Principal donors agreed to provide $800 million a year for three years to help cover Tanzania’s foreign exchange requirements. In 1987, the 21 donor countries and institutions pledged $955 million for 1987 and $978 million for 1988.
As part of the 1986 IMF agreement, Mwinyi introduced a three-year Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) that resulted in IMF approval of a standby loan which was replaced in 1987 by a three-year structural adjustment facility. In a December 31, 1986, speech, Mwinyi said the IMF agreement “did not make us change the principals of our policy of socialism and self-reliance.” He acknowledged the bad state of affairs that had necessitated negotiating with the IMF.
The ERP was announced at a time when Tanzanians were lining up for the most basic food commodities. The Economic Recovery Plan involved devaluation of Tanzanian currency, raising of agricultural producer prices, and the removal of corruption from some 400 parastatal companies. Mwinyi closed some of the more inefficient state corporations and returned some factories to private ownership. In 1988, Mwinyi described Tanzania’s economy as a “mixed economy,” pointing to private enterprise as well as public ownership in the different sectors. Tourism, for example, was both private and public. Mwinyi estimated agricultural production at 80-90 percent private, with all cash and food crops being produced by private individuals. Transport was about 60 percent privately run, and Mwinyi noted that he had expanded the role of the private sector in agricultural distribution, which under Nyerere was done only by parastatal organizations.
The ERP was largely designed by Cleopa Msuya, formerly the prime minister and then the finance minister. In 1987, the CCM showed its opposition to the ERP and the IMF agreement by excluding Msuya from its central committee. To alleviate the effects of the Economic Recovery Plan, under which devaluation made meager wages even more worthless, the minimum wage was increased in 1988, rent assistance was introduced, and income taxes were reduced. Toward the end of 1988, the flow of donor funds into the Tanzanian economy was unblocked, following an IMF agreement, when the government agreed to further devalue the Tanzanian shilling.
The government had been unwilling to further devalue its currency but finally agreed to the IMF’s demands. Mwinyi also agreed to reduce public spending and lift import and price controls. He defended the agreement before the CCM as a “lesser evil [between] empty shelves [and] shops full of expensive goods.” Commentators noted that Mwinyi had succeeded in bringing basic necessities to the villages, and shops in Dar es Salaam were now filled with local and foreign goods.
Although Mwinyi’s pragmatic and liberalizing policies were credited with reviving the Tanzanian economy, he would deny that he reversed the socialist policies of his predecessor. Mwinyi describes the role of the president and the party in Tanzania by saying, “In our country, the party is supreme and the government is only an instrument which implements the party’s policies.” Mwinyi continued to assert that socialism is a goal for the Tanzanian economy, but he also acknowledged an active private sector in Tanzania’s “mixed economy.”
In 1989, Mwinyi launched the country’s second five-year plan. Its goal was to raise the real growth in gross domestic product (GDP) by 6 percent per year on the mainland and by 4 percent on Zanzibar. While the budget was likely to have a harsh impact on the population, it was regarded by most donors as disappointing. According to the donors, the plan lacked new measures to encourage investment and restructure the produce-marketing boards.
In March 1990, a new investment code was approved by the ruling CCM and went before parliament in April. As part of the liberalization of the economy, it was designed to “entice private and public investors of local and foreign origin to take a more active role in promoting the development of our national economy.” As a result of improved foreign relations, Tanzania received foreign aid from the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Canada wrote off Tanzania’s debt entirely.
Mwinyi has also sought to improve relations with Tanzania’s neighbors. In 1986, he signed an agreement with Malawi to allow that nation greater access to the port city of Dar es Salaam. In 1987, he reinforced cordial relations with neighboring Mozambique, Zambia, and nearby Zimbabwe. Mwinyi pledged military support to President Chissano of Mozambique in 1986, to guard the railways and fight against what was perceived as South African-supported destabilizing forces. Toward the end of 1988, though, Tanzanian troops were withdrawn from Mozambique. Relations with neighboring Burundi have been strained, with Tanzania expelling thousands of Burundi nationals allegedly living illegally in Tanzania.
Mwinyi gained support for his liberalizing economic policies through a series of cabinet reshuffles, dismissals, and party politicking. Faced with the problem of corruption, he dismissed prominent government administrators. In the middle of his first term, Mwinyi was viewed by some commentators as a transitional president who would be succeeded in 1990 by Joseph Warioba, the prime minister under Nyerere and a dedicated follower of Nyerere and the CCM’s socialist policies. In 1987, two cabinet reshuffles resulted in at least three ministers being replaced; they had been regarded as supporters of the traditional party ideology and opposed to Mwinyi’s liberalization policies.
At the CCM’s third national conference in 1987, Nyerere surprised the 1,800 delegates by announcing he would remain as chairman of CCM, with Mwinyi being renominated as the CCM vice-chairman. In September 1988, Mwinyi strengthened his control over the armed forces by appointing a new chief of general staff, General Ernest Mwita Kiaro, and a new army chief of staff, General Tumainiel Kiwelu. In 1989 Mwinyi created two new ministries and abolished the post of deputy prime minister that had been created for Salim in 1985.
Mwinyi also took over the defense and national service portfolio, sharing responsibilities in this area with Nyerere. In February, the CCM initiated a campaign against corruption in the government, and Mwinyi dismissed seven ministers who had allegedly opposed plans for economic reform and presided over corrupt or irresponsible ministries. This latest reshuffle was seen as a move to secure support for the new investment code, which had reportedly provoked dissent among some socialist ministers.
Mwinyi succeed Nyerere as chair of the CCM in August 1990. In the presidential and general elections set for October 1990, Mwinyi was chosen as the sole candidate for president. Following the elections, Mwinyi appointed a new prime minister, John Malecela, former high commissioner to the United Kingdom. Malecela replaced Joseph Warioba, who had hitherto been considered an eventual successor to Mwinyi.
Africa South of the Sahara, 1991, Europa, 1990.
Tanzania after Nyerere, edited by Michael Hodd, Pinter Publishers, 1988.
Keesing’s Record of World Events, Longman, 1990.
Africa Report, January-February 1988.
Business America, April 10, 1989.
The Economist, October 17, 1987.
New Yorker, March 3, 1986.
Time, November 4, 1985.
U.S. News & World Report, June 27, 1988.
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