Zanzibar’s former Chief Minister Mr Seif Shariff Hamad was arrested with three others on May 10, 1989 for holding illegal political meetings on Pemba island. According to the African Economic Digest, four days later he faced a further charge of illegally obtaining state secrets. The Chief Public Prosecutor was said to have told a magistrates court that the police had uncovered 10 kilos of secret documents. These were said to be intelligence reports and descriptions of military installations. Hamad leads a group that was expelled from the ruling party (CCM) in May 1988 (Bulletin No.31). Government and Party leaders were said, according to the article, to have accused the group of trying to break up the Union between Zanzibar and the mainland and of advocating a referendum on the matter.
A few days before these dramatic events (throngs of people were said to have lined the route to the packed courthouse, according to another report) the Daily News stated that the Zanzibar branch of the Tanzania Workers Organisation (JUWATA) had deplored at a rally ‘political cheats and opportunists’ who were undermining the stability of the Isles. The misguided elements ‘must be fought with all vigour’ the workers declared.
Later, according to Africa Analysis, the charge of conducting an illegal assembly was dropped and a lengthy dispute between prosecution and defence developed on the subject of bail. At time of going to press it is understood that the accused had not been granted bail.
The Daily News took up the story in a number of articles stretching through until mid August. It was learnt that charges against Hamad’s co-accused had been dropped but that legal aid for Hamad, which was being provided by the University of Dar es Salaam Legal Aid Committee, had been withdrawn. The police had threatened to bring Hamad to court in handcuffs to stop him waving to the people but the magistrate had said it was not a crime to wave to people. On August 1st the paper said that 25 state documents described as top secret which should have been handed over had been found at Hamad’s house. Hamad still faced a charge of holding an illegal meeting in Pemba. Just before the Bulletin went to press in late August the state prosecutor was said to have applied for future hearings to be held in camera because of the sensitivity of the documents. The magistrate was considering the matter.
Meanwhile, Africa Events published five articles under the headings: ‘Tense But Calm’ (immediately after the arrest), ‘Fears of a Drift’ (referring to financial changes in Zanzibar which might slow down the integration of the Zanzibar economy with that of the mainland), ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ (referring to the ‘dizzying, whirlwind’ career of Hamad), ‘Zanzibar Handcuffed To Its Own Indecisions’ (on the handcuffing of Hamad) and ‘Too Hot To Handle’ (speculation as to why legal aid had been withdrawn).
In the article on Hamad’s career the writer wrote of him, during his time as Chief Minister as ‘young (43), dynamic, educated, extremely diligent …. he demanded more and more from his people.. he developed the habit of turning up unannounced at different Zanzibar offices and meting out instant punishment to those not at their desks; he became very popular’. But ‘Zanzibar politics are insular in the extreme. People are highly aware politically but their view seldom extends beyond the Zanzibar Channel ‘ . .. . Hamad was thought not to have sufficiently mobilised support behind the Party’s choice for President in the last elections. He came into disfavour at the highest levels’.