Dar es Salaam — President John Magufuli yesterday called opposition party leaders to the podium to give a word during the 58th Tanganyika independence celebration in Mwanza Region in unprecedented move which they used to appeal for national reconciliation and promotion of democracy.
The unusual attendance of opposition leaders at the celebrations held at CCM Kirumba Stadium was praised as a positive gesture of putting national interests before interest of individual political parties.
The main opposition Chadema leader Freeman Mbowe said in a short address that Tanzania needed unity and described President John Magufuli as the man in the most practical position to unite Tanzanians and promote peace and democracy.
"I have attended this year's ceremony to show that the country needed consensus, love and solidarity. I pray God that door are open today for love and harmony, challenge each other and give space to democracy and allow love and solidarity to prosper," said Mr Mbowe whose party boycotted the celebrations since 2016.
Civic United Front (CUF) chairman said president Magufuli had a responsibility to strengthen democracy in Tanzania ahead of the 2020 General Elections.
Other opposition leaders who attended the celebrations include the United Democratic Party (UDP) chairman John Cheyo, the African Alliance for Tanzania Farmers Party (AATFP)'s Said Sudi Said and Alliance for Democratic Change (ADC) chairman Hamad Rashid Mohamed.
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President Magufuli reiterated his government's commitment protect the country's independence, unity and the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
Dr Magufuli also vowed to protect achievements that Tanzania recorded in the last 58 years and pay emphasis to liberating the country's economy.
Speaking during the live televised and well-attended event, Dr Magufuli called for support from Tanzanians.
"I call upon Tanzanians to maintain unity and solidarity and put nation interest first," he said.
He said his government has successfully maintained unity, protected peace and security as well as the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar during his four years in office.
"We have also been reviving dormant industries and established at least 4,000 industries in the government's efforts to liberate the country's economy," he said, adding.
"The government is also implementing major hydroelectric power generation projects at the Julius Nyerere National Park that will produce over 2,100 MW electricity.
Also, we are implementing several infrastructure development projects because the two are part and parcel of economic liberation," he said.
He also outlined achievements made in development of infrastructure, saying Tanzania constructed 12,679.55 kilometers of tarmac road, up from 360 kilometers that existed during independence.
He said 2,400 kilometers of road were being constructed at the tarmac level, 7,087 kilometers road projects were under construction plans.
"Also, we have constructed over 8,000 small bridges, over 79 medium bridges and 17 large bridges," he said.
He said during independence the country had 1,095 health facilities; 98 hospitals, 22 health centers and 975 dispensaries, which have significantly increased to 7,293 facilities; 178 hospitals, 795 health centres and 6,285 dispensaries.
He said the country had 3,100 primary schools, 41 secondary schools and one university during independence but today there were to 17,379 primary schools, 4,817 secondary schools and 48 higher learning institutions 58 years later.
The Head of State said the number of registered Tanzanian doctors increased to over 9,400 from 12, registered engineers and contractors 19,164 and over 9,350 respectively as compared to two each.
"Life expectance has also increased to 61 years instead of 37 years in 1961. Population has also grown to over 55 million from nine million," he said.
Internationally, he said Tanzania has recorded achievements in liberation of African countries, involvement in peace keeping and integrating the continent through establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) now the AU and East African Community (EAC).
Also, the country played role in establishing the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and strengthened individual relations with other countries, according to him.
Magufuli pardons 5,533 prisoners
During the celebrations, President Magufuli pardoned 5,533 prisoners, after witnessing high level of congestion during his visit at the Butimba Prison in Mwanza few months ago.
According to him, as of Sunday, December 8, 2019, Tanzania had a total of 35,803 people were in various prisons including 17,547 prisoners and 18,256 remandees.
He said beneficiaries of pardon include prisoners serving jail terms between one day and one year as well as those who were sentenced to many years but left with less than a year to finish their jail term.
He named regions and number of beneficiaries in bracket as Kagera (713), Dodoma (385), Morogoro (365) Dar es Salaam (293), Mara (260) Mbeya (259), Kigoma (252), Tanga (245) and Geita (230).
Others are Rukwa (214), Arusha (208), Manyara (207), Tabora (207), Mwanza (190), Ruvuma (181), Singida (139), Simiyu (136), Lindi (129), Coast (128), Iringa (110), Songwe (96), Katavi (74), Shinyanga (74) and Njombe (70).
President Magufuli directed the Commissioner General of Prisons DCP Phaustine Kasike ensure beneficiaries were freed effectively from today.
During the event, Dr Magufuli revealed that a total of 601 Tanzanians have been set free including 345 who were serving jail terms in prison and 256 facing cases related to economic sabotage.
Well attendance of former leaders
Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, First Lady Janeth Magufuli, National Assembly Speaker, Job Ndugai, Chief Justice Prof Ibrahim Juma, ministers, parliamentarians and other government officials attended the event. Also in attendance were former Presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa as well as four Prime Ministers; John Malecela, Fredrick Sumaye, Mizengo Pinda and Edward Lowassa.
Gun salutes fired to welcome President John Magufuli on his arrival sent many people who are not used to such events into shock and panic.
The same was witnessed when military planes flew at the CCM Kirumba sky in demonstration of military power and as a salute the president who doubles as the Commander-in-chief of armed forces.
Majority missed access to the stadium
Security organs were forced to close gates of the CCM Kirumba Stadium after the 25,000 seater became fully packed.
Instead, they were directed to the nearby Furahisha Grounds where large television screens had been installed for them to follow up events.
Reports later made it that the Furahisha Grounds were also full of people considered to be more than those who got access to CCM Kirumba Stadium.