“Each day is a day of decision and our decisions determine our destiny!” – Tanzania’s Minister of Information

The presidential honeymoon is effectively over in Tanzania. A chorus from seemingly disparate quarters is now questioning the President for protecting a public official who appears to trump the rule of law. Yet the Presidency is holding its ground on the matter.

We are referring to a recent incident in which the Regional Commissioner(RC) of Dar es Salaam is apparently seen on CCTV storming into the offices of Clouds Media Group with armed policemen at night. Our purpose, however, is not to address the ”hullabaloo over this RC and allegations on his school certificates. The Citizen has aptly contextualized it in its Tuesday’s editorial.

Our focus is on how the politics of populism plays out through a tactic that is analogous to the ‘good cop, bad cop’ technique in detective movies. In such a scenario, one cop appears tough on the interrogated person while another cop seems soft. As a result, the person may obliviously open up to the seemingly sympathetic cop.

In those situations the cops work as a team. What we don’t know is whether in Tanzanian politics, the President and his appointees work jointly when issuing contradictory orders. All that we know is that one of the directives ends up being cheered and another jeered.

Take, for example, the case of the Minister responsible for Justice and Constitutional Affairs who issued what The Citizen refers to as “his controversial ‘no birth certificate, no marriage’ order”. It didn’t take more than a day for his boss to rescind the order. “When I heard this yesterday”, the President is quoted in The Citizen as saying, “I was shocked… I was shocked, honestly I was shocked.”

Yours Truly applauded. So did many other Tanzanians. Yet the Minister has not resigned. More significantly, what do such contradictory directives tell us about the communication strategy of the Cabinet. Why should the President only hear about it the other ‘yesterday’ i.e. ‘just after the fact’ like the rest of us out here?

Could it be that one party is playing the ”good cop at the expense of the other party? Or the center is not holding hence the decentralized parts are moving in their own directions? Either way, what effects does all this have on the integrity and legitimacy of the Presidency?

It may be way too soon to assert that there is a crisis of legitimacy in the country. However, the way the President and the Minister responsible for Information will jointly – or separately – handle the case of the Regional Commissioner of Dar es Salaam may give us a glimpse of what to expect. Probably unaware that his boss was publicly defending the Commissioner elsewhere, the Minister issued a strong statement on the incident and formed a probe team.

Now the Minister surely knows what the President said. What will this young Minister do? Yesterday he tweeted: “No longer at Ease!”

Who will be a ‘good cop’ this time if and when ‘Things Fall Apart’?