Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) – The death of a local television reporter at the hands of policemen and the ensuing public condemnation of the Tanzania Police Force made blazing headlines in the country’s newspapers this week.
Daudi Mwangosi, 42, a Channel Ten journalist, stationed in the southern highlands Iringa Region, was killed in a blast moments after he rushed to a group of policemen to find out why his colleague was being arrested.
According to The Citizen daily, “Mwangosi was seen pleading for mercy with police officers who beat him” but a while later “journalists and other people [around] could not believe that the dismembered body on the ground was of none other than Mwangosi.”
The journalists were covering a meeting of the opposition CHADEMA party supporters in Mufindi district but the police labelled the gathering as illegal.
Front-page accounts on the tragedy raised questions on the police performance to safeguard people and their property, while opposition parties and some human rights groups criticised the way government investigation of the incident was set to start, including competence of a team appointed by Home Affairs Minister Emmanuel Nchimbi to probe the issue.
According to The Guardian, a private daily, political parties were seeking audience with Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda to discuss recent incidents of political violence which involved the police.
In an editorial, headlined “Did Mwangosi have to die?”, the paper said the local media fraternity was shocked after one of their fellow journalists “died in highly controversial and frightening circumstances in Iringa.”
Quoting reports from the same area, the paper said Mwangosi was taking pictures of a fracas when he was first attacked by policemen and then hit by an object suspected to be an explosive device and died on the spot.
“We condemn the killing as uncalled for, targeting as it did someone who was just doing his professional work. We join our media colleagues in demanding that all those linked to it be arrested to help in the investigations.
“Indeed it is unacceptable for the government and the public to rely on police investigations, knowing only too well that they are in this case one of the parties being blamed for the death of our professional colleague,” said the daily.
In its opinion, the incident was “a reflection of a worrying trend in the political realm that needs to be addressed more closely … to go beyond mere condemnations of any excesses in the public sphere.”
The Guardian further queried: “Are we sincerely building a democratic process? If so, are we satisfied with the level of tolerance being exhibited in the political process? What do we read in the current happenings at political rallies?”
According to the paper, recent happenings in Tanzania point more and more to political intolerance and call into question the resolve of the principal players to abide by their commitment.
“We expect the happenings to prompt not only the government and the ruling party, but all political stakeholders to seriously address the situation, by looking into police powers, political tolerance and whether there is truly a level political playground,” The Guardian urged, adding: “Our peace as a nation is too valuable to be sacrificed for political interests.”
Several other dailies in Kiswahili carried items on public outcries against the police force and the threat issued by the registrar of political parties, John Tendwa, to revoke any party linked to disruption of peace during their rallies.
However, public reactions maintained that the right to demonstrate or assemble is the people’s constitutional right which cannot be ignored.
One of the dailies, Mtanzania, cautioned the registrar that he made the threat in the wake of the journalist’s death and, therefore, the public see it targeting CHADEMA party.
“Any decision he takes in this respect against CHADEMA will be interpreted as a deliberate move to weaken democracy instead of ensuring national peace,” the paper said, advising the registrar to tread the ground with extra care.
“The registrar must realise that a decision to revoke a political party would have great implication and discourage the majority of Tanzanians,” said the Kiswahili daily, which argued that it is a clear fact that CHADEMA is the main opposition party in the country and draws interest of a large part of the population.
-0- PANA AR/VAO 8Sept2012