from ALLOYCE KIMBUNGA in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
DAR-ES-SALAAM – TO lockdown Dar es Salaam or to keep it open is a tough decision the Tanzanian government has had to contend with in recent days in the wake of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This has presented a dilemma to the administration of President John Magufuli considering the country’s commercial hub is the lifeblood of the country’s economy and a key facility for landlocked countries in the region.
Thus, the government had a delicate decision to make.
It either had to shut the commercial hub and risk wrecking the economy or keep it open and maintain economic activity but compromise interventions to curtail the spread of the COVID-19.
In line with his dub as The Bulldozer, Magufuli has opted for the latter.
“There have been suggestions that we lockdown Dar es Salaam. This is not possible,” the president said in his hometown of Chato in the northwestern Gaita region.
“Dar es Salaam is the only centre where we collect almost 80 percent of the country’s revenue,” he highlighted the significance of the principal port to business and the government.
Its name loosely translating to “house of peace”, the most populous city in Tanzania with 6,63 million people (about 12 percent of the country’s total population), is a haven of trade and commerce.
Dar es Salaam handles over 90 percent of the country’s cargo traffic and is in the top four largest ports on the continent’s Indian Ocean coastline.
It serves as a gateway for Tanzania and numerous landlocked bordering states.
In Chato, Magifuli was addressing a joint meeting of heads of defence and security as the country, like most others in the continent, were reeling from the escalating COVID-19 crisis.
A number of African countries have imposed lockdowns, which are seen as the most effective way of halting the virus’ spread.
“We can continue taking all measures to curb the virus but not by locking down Dar es Salaam,” Magufuli insisted.
However, the insistence on keeping Dar es Salaam open does not in any way suggest a lack of commitment to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
Confirmation that it will be exempt from lockdown coincided with some appointments by Magufuli to boost the war against the pandemic.
Mabula Daudi Mchembe, the president’s personal advisor for health issues, is the new Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health.
Abel Makubi has been appointed the country’s new Chief Medical Officer.
He succeeds the retired Mohamed Bakari Kambi.
Magufuli also issued a warning against politicians and members of the public spreading untruthful information on COVID-19.
He urged the heads of defense and security to intervene.
“We must give people facts about the disease, instead of giving information that creates panic among members of the public,” the president said.
At the time of going to press, Tanzania had confirmed 300 cases of COVID-19, of which ten had resulted in death. There had been 48 recoveries.
Ahmed Shabani, the local economic commentator, said the government had to strike a balance between keeping the economy running and bringing the COVI-19 under control.
“It was always going to be a brittle balancing act considering the threat by both the COVID-19 and closure of the port city to the economy.
“However, one believes if the port remains open and all stakeholders commit to precautions against the pandemic, booth the economy and lives will be saved,” Shabani said.
With gross domestic product (GDP) of over US$61 billion, Tanzania is the tenth-largest economy in Africa and the third-largest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, behind South Africa (largest in the bloc) and Angola.
Before the COVI-19 outbreak, the International Monetary Fund had projected a 2 percent growth in Tanzania’s GDP for 2020.
– CAJ News