By Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala
DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete axed his finance and energy ministers on Friday in a reshuffle that had been widely expected due to growing public and opposition discontent over graft allegations.
William Mgimwa was named as the new finance minister, replacing Mustafa Mkulo, while Sospeter Muhongo was appointed as energy and minerals minister to replace William Ngeleja, according to a government statement.
The opposition camp in parliament declared last month that it planned to put forward a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda over a failure to tackle misuse of government funds, as highlighted in a report from the chief auditor.
The aim of the no confidence vote was to try and force Kikwete to dissolve the cabinet, although the speaker had yet to allow the motion to be introduced and the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) was unlikely to lose given its large majority.
However, both the finance minister and the energy minister had come under fire in parliament from lawmakers in both the ruling party and the opposition over allegations of graft within their ministries.
“The president has been responsive … He has listened to members of parliament and to the voice of the people and has done the needful,” Benson Bana, head of the University of Dar es Salaam’s political research think-tank, REDET, told Reuters.
“The ministers were sacked due to a lack of accountability. The ministers failed to deliver and some were accused of mismanaging the ministries … the president has responded positively,” he said.
New finance minister Mgimwa, who was promoted from the backbenches, is a former banker who first became a member of parliament in 2010. Prior to joining parliament he was principal at the central bank’s training institute.
Muhongo is a professor of geology at the University of Dar es Salaam and an editor-in-chief of the Journal of African Earth Sciences, which specialises in the search for natural resources in Africa and the Middle East.
He was recently appointed a member of parliament by Kikwete. The constitution allows the president to appoint 10 lawmakers.
Tanzania is a hot prospect for oil and gas exploration by international firms. Like its neighbour Mozambique, large deposits of natural gas have been discovered offshore.
The east African country has extensive mining interests, including gold, coal and iron ore which have also attracted large foreign investors.
East Africa’s second-biggest economy has seen its ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, a measure of perceived public sector corruption, plunge 32 places over the past two years. It now ranks at 116 out of 178 countries in the organisation’s 2010 survey.
Businesses have long complained graft is one of the main reasons for the high cost of doing business in Tanzania.
The ruling party promised in November to implement swift anti-corruption measures, but opposition calls for heads to roll have grown louder in recent months.
Other key cabinet members, such as the prime minister, vice president and foreign ministry, remained in their jobs, while the country’s tourism and trade ministers were axed.
The cabinet reshuffle also come at a time of jostling and splits within the CCM party ahead of the end of Kikwete’s second term in 2015, with a number of politicians and cabinet members pushing for the top job.
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