Tanzania opposition denounces 'smear' link to drugs
Tanzania's main opposition party has hit back against allegations that its leader is involved in a drug trafficking ring, calling them "unfair" and a "smear campaign," state media reported Thursday.
Freeman Mbowe, the chairman of the Chama Cha Demokrasia (Chadema) party, was among names of suspected drug traffickers unveiled by Dar es Salaam governor Paul Makonda in a press conference on Wednesday.
Makonda listed 65 people he suspects of being involved in a drug trafficking ring, but did not provide details of an investigation or evidence for his claims.
After unveiling the list, Makonda called on the people on the list to present themselves to police for questioning on Friday morning.
Mbowe criticised the treatment as "unfair"in an interview to The Citizen daily.
"The country is not governed properly. It is unfair to accuse a reputable person of drug trafficking without any shred of evidence," Mbowe said. "This matter will end up injuring innocent people’s reputations."
Chadema's secretary general Vincent Mashinji slammed the accusations, saying: "This is a smear campaign."
"We deny this political ploy," Mashinji told reporters Wednesday. "The people in power just want to silence dissidents so they can do whatever they want."
Two well-known Tanzanians were also among the suspects: wealthy businessman Jusuph Manji, owner of prestigious Dar es Salaam football club Yanga, and well-known pastor Josephat Gwajima.
Both Manji and Gwajima went in to answer questions on Thursday, with Manji flanked by his attorneys and dozens of Yanga football supporters. Gwajima was accompanied by a crowd of faithful.
It was unclear late Thursday whether either men was being held or had been released after their interviews.
"This is a politics of slander," said deputy Zitto Kabwe, leader of ACT, a small opposition party. "If we let this go without criticism... all opposition members will be accused of drug trafficking."
Makonda had previously named a dozen police officers and celebrities as drug trafficking suspects. Some of them were later charged.