Dar es Salaam — Fears are rife among public employees as they mull over their possible fate. This comes following reports from some government authorities that public servants who did not register to vote for the November 24 civic elections will be held to account for their lapse.
Letters from municipal councils and universities to their employees requiring them to prove that they registered to vote - and actually did cast their vote on polling day - have puzzled members of the public who have interpreted the directives to mean forced voters registration.
Despite clarification by Local Government minister Selemani Jafo that there was no ill-will concerning the directive - and that no public worker should harbour any fears - the fears have persisted.
Workers unions have also come under criticism for their seeming silence on what is generally seen as violation of workers' basic rights as citizens.
The Citizen is aware that workers of the University of Dodoma (Udom), Moshi Cooperative University (MoCU) and Dodoma City Council were told in writing that the government will want to know who took part in the voter registration and who didn't.
Some local government officials are reportedly said to deny people basic social services if they didn't register to vote.
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Moshi District commissioner Kipi Warioba ordered district leaders to ensure that all workers registered for the civic elections. Many workers have difficulty figuring out what are the likely consequences for workers who did not fulfill their political and civic obligations.
"The exercise is neither intended to hold those who did not register accountable; nor is it to serve as the basis for their sacking. It is solely devised for sensitisation purposes," Mr Jafo clarified the issue in Dodoma on Wednesday. These developmens come as voters registration ended yesterday after starting at a slow pace. This led to extending the registration deadline for three days. Government reports are that an additional four million people were registered since Sunday when the registration deadline was extended. Mr Jafo told a press conference that, until October 14, 15.2 million people had been registered out of the targeted 22.9 million.
The slow registration pace prompted President John Magufuli to promise to take action against local executives who would fail to mobilise their people to register. There are views that it was against this warning that universities and some municipal councils acted as they did.
According to Dr Paul Luisulie, chairperson of the Tanzania Higher Learning Institutions Trade Union (THTU), following President Magufuli's warning, all regional authorities directed their aides to act accordingly. "This is odd in the history of this country, it has never happened before," said Dr Luisulie, a senior lecturer at UDom. "It has led to panic among our members to the extent that some of them asked us to issue a statement."
He said they didn't issue the statement because they didn't have all the information in hand. The information is now collated and an emergency meeting will be convened to decide on the appropriate action(s). "But, let it be known that registering - and, ultimately, voting - is an individual person's issue. Use of force and pressure from above will never convince people to exercise that right. It is sensitisation only that will work," he said.
A spokesperson for the Tanzania Local Government Workers Union (Talgwu) couldn't comment for the story as he said was in a meeting and would come back when he was done. Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (Tucta) president Tumaini Nyamhokya said he cannot comment on the subject over the phone - and invited The Citizen to his office.
Chadema Secretary-General Vincent Mashinji said that the matter is not a political one but rather an issue between the employers and their employees. He said them as a political party see no reason to be concerned with it.
"The only way it can concern us or anyone is that it is very unfortunate that we still have workers in this country who do not see the importance of taking part in an electoral process and that tells us that we have a long way to go as a country," he said.
But ACT-Wazalendo leader Zitto Kabwe said the matter is concerning, legally and politically. He said: "Legally we don't have the law that provides for compulsory voting. So what will you do to those who wouldn't register? Axe them from work? Punish them? Under what law? My concern is victimization of the public servants who just don't want to exercise their right to vote."
Politically, Zitto said that the practice may imply that it is a preparation for rigging and vote stuffing. The Kigoma Urban MP (ACT-Wazalendo) called upon trade unions to stand up and condemn the behaviour.