A female Tanzanian MP has been arrested for allegedly insulting President John Magufuli, who is seen as increasingly authoritarian and unwilling to brook any dissent.
The outspoken lawmaker, Halima Mdee, 39, from the main opposition Chadema party, was arrested on Tuesday, a day after she held a press conference slamming Magufuli for saying teen mothers should be barred from school.
“She is accused of insulting president Magufuli,” fellow lawmaker Said Kubenea said Wednesday.
“This is all part of a campaign to crush any criticism (of the authorities).”
At her press conference, Mdee questioned the “competency” of the president, who swept to power in 2015 as a no-nonsense, corruption-busting man of the people but has drawn criticism for an authoritarian streak.
“We should denounce this tendency of President John Pombe Magufuli who thinks his declarations are law. If we continue to do nothing, one day he will order Tanzanians to walk barefoot or topless, because he knows he has the support of police,” she said.
“We must absolutely put the breaks on this president,” she said, describing him as “problematic”.
Magufuli angered rights groups last month when he said girls who fell pregnant should be kicked out of school, promising to fire any school official who admitted teen mothers.
The African organisation for women’s rights FEMNET said his comments were “unacceptable” and “disgusting”.
Under Magufuli, authorities have taken a tough line on the media, prosecuted individuals for posts on social networks and arrested several people for insulting the president.
In March a popular rapper was briefly jailed over his song lyrics seen as targeting the president.
Before her arrest Mdee was already suspended from participating in the National Assembly for disrespect since June after a debate in which the speaker ordered several opposition members removed from the house.
Chadema is taking legal action against the six-month suspension which affects Mdee and another lawmaker.