Opposition lawmaker Nusrat Hanje opens up about her ordeals in prison where she stayed for over four months before being released.
Ms Hanje, 30, was among 19 Chadema cadres, members and supporters who were arrested on July 6, 2020 and remained behind bars until November 23, 2020 when they were released after the government dropped its interest in continuing with the case.
They were charged with ‘adulteration’ of the national anthem.
“On the day I regained my freedom, the prison warders arrived at our cells at around 6pm and informed us that we were free. They took us to the prison administration block where we were told the government had no interest in continuing with the case,” she says in an interview.
“That is not a good place for someone to be. I thank God for the release after an earlier failed attempt when we were released by the High Court in Dodoma on the prosecution’s technical errors in referring to a section of the law that was used when arresting us.”
She said immediately after release, they were re-arrested and recharged after including another suspect, saying, however, that she thank God that prayers of Tanzanians were ultimately answered.
When asked whether there were powers working from behind the curtain, she says, “I’m unaware of the rest.”
Just a day after her release from jail, Ms Hanje was among the 19 Chadema Special Seats MPs who took oath on November 24, before National Assembly Speaker Job Ndugai as new legislators.
Her dream, before the arrest, was to compete for a parliamentary seat. She continued to struggle for the seat even under arrest.
According to her, she followed intra-party processes to collect nomination forms for the Singida West Constituency and the region’s Special Seats lawmaker positions shortly before her arrest.
“I was scheduled to commission the party’s base and fly the party’s flag somewhere in the region. But, during an event, unknown people in the multitude of cadres, members and supporters sang ‘God Bless Tanzania’, mixing it with ‘God Bless Chadema’. The latter part was considered a breach of the national anthem,” she says.
“While under arrest, I sought for permission to fill in the forms and asked my driver to return to the regional party leadership who acknowledged receipt.”
She says the procedure within Chadema was that a candidate who had successfully returned the forms was considered legal despite absence during the primaries or Election Day, saying that was how the party’s vice chairman, Tundu Lissu (Mainland), was also picked.
According to her, Mr Hemedi Kulungu won the primaries to become the constituency’s candidate while she emerged victorious in the Special Seats candidature as she was the lone candidate.
The mother of two is now a lawmaker concerned with the education system in Tanzania.
She calls for review of the system to align it with the current demands and practical trends around the world.
She says, while neighboring Kenya made such reforms in 1985, Tanzania is stuck in the old system despite changes in science and technology taking place across the globe.
“Neighbouring countries focus on education that impart knowledge and give confidence to students. We should review ours in order to accommodate changes taking place in the world,” she says.
She says as a teacher, she experienced that Tanzania’s education system lacked a package of knowledge to allow one to add value and execute beneficial plans for oneself and for the country.
Her struggles at tender age
Furthermore, she says when she was 17 and in Form Three, she became an orphan after losing both her parents who died separately. This pushed her to assume caregiver responsibilities for her three siblings at tender age.
“It was during this period that I had to file a case against my father’s relatives who had evil intentions against my father’s property. This was after abandoning us even as they were the appointed managers of the estate,” she recalls.
“It was painful when the little ones requested for their school requirements from me who, at that age, was also supposed to get them,” she recalls.
She adds, “I’m thankful that my siblings understood the situation in case I had nothing to provide them with.”
According to her, it was a challenging moment because some close friends of her father, who, she believed, could have helped the family in the absence of her parents, started demanding sexual favours from her.
“This challenge and others made me grow firm with the goal of achieving my dreams of becoming a leader and a representative of citizens committed to the people,” she says.