November 13, 2017 / 4:57 PM / 2 years ago

Tanzania investigates ex-minister days after he joins opposition

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania’s tourism minister ordered a corruption investigation into his predecessor on Monday, just two weeks after the former post-holder quit the ruling party and joined the opposition.

Hamisi Kigwangalla, in charge of regulating one of Tanzania’s most lucrative sectors, told parliament he had asked the anti-corruption watchdog to look into allegations of abuse of office by Lazaro Nyalandu.

Nyalandu took to Twitter to deny any wrongdoing and called the announcement a smear campaign meant to stop anyone else jumping ship.

He quit the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party on Oct 30 and joined the main opposition CHADEMA, citing rights abuses and a weakening of democracy in the east African nation. Rights groups have accused President John Magufuli’s government of cracking down on opposition voices, something it denies.

Earlier, the government threatened to disband an opposition-controlled municipal council after the body decided to stay in a pro-democracy organization that the country as a whole had left.

The northwestern Kigoma Ujiji Municipal Council, run by the relatively small ACT-Wazalendo party, has decided to remain in the Washington-based Open Government Partnership (OGP) despite the central government’s withdrawal.

Tanzania joined the OGP in 2011 to promote transparency and accountability in government spending, but withdrew in July, saying it wanted to focus on participation in APRM, a similar peer review system for African governments.

At the time it said it wanted to cut down on the time and paperwork involved in taking part in two initiatives.

“If they (the council) continue to communicate with OGP as they are doing now, the government will take stern measures ... which may include disbanding the municipal council. Don’t force us to go there,” Tanzania’s Good Governance Minister, George Mkuchika, said in parliament.

The leader of ACT-Wazalendo criticized the announcement.

“Forcing it (the municipal council) to withdraw... is unconstitutional because the central government is interfering in the affairs of local government,” he said in a statement.

Editing by Duncan Miriri and Andrew Heavens

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