This was the title of a talk (and the question posed) on July 29th at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London by Haroub Othman, Professor of Development Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam. It was a well-timed address as, only two weeks later, the matter reached the top of the agenda in Tanzania’s National Assembly when 57 MP’s signed a motion demanding the establishment of a Government of Tanganyika.

For quite some time there have been significant groups in Zanzibar questioning whether it is in the best interests of the Isles to remain in Union with the mainland of Tanzania in a United republic. A new development in recent weeks has been the sudden expression by mainlanders of their serious reservations also about the Union.

Zanzibar’s unilateral act in joining the ‘organisation of Islamic Conference’ (OIC), apparently without any objection from the Union Government, plus the subsequent Union Parliamentary (Marmo) Enquiry were described in the May 1993 Bulletin of Tanzanian Affairs.


Under apparently massive pressure from the mainland and with considerable reluctance on the part of Zanzibar it was eventually announced on August 13 1993 that Zanzibar would withdraw from the OIC. Prime Minister and First Vice-President John Malecela stated however that the Union Government was doing research on whether the OIC engaged purely in economic cooperation and social welfare (as had been claimed by Zanzibar) or whether it was primarily a religious organisation. There was a possibility of the Union joining the OIC at a later date if it was secular in nature.

When the estimates for the 1993/94 budget of the Office of the Second Vice-President (who is also President of Zanzibar) came up for debate in the National Assembly, MP’s were clearly disturbed and also divided in their reactions to the withdrawal. The debate was tense. Speakers received sporadic applause from crowds listening outside the Parliament Chambers.

Some MP’s commended the Zanzibar Government for the decision to withdraw saying it was a demonstration of political maturity. They called for a compromise on ‘matters which were likely to divide the 29-year-old political marriage between the then Tanganyika and Zanzibar’.

One MP suggested that the setting up of a single government could end the ‘undue bickering’.

The MP for Njombe said he believed that Zanzibar had been rejected by the OIC Secretariat, that it had never become a member, that there was no need to praise it for withdrawing and that it had been a case of cheap political propaganda. His speech was interrupted by Government Ministers on points of order.

The MP for Kongwa, proposing a cut of one shilling in the Second-Vicc-President’s budget, said that Zanzibar President Salmin Amour should apologise to the House over his request earlier in the year for MP’s to stop questioning Zanzibar’s entry into the OIC.

Prime Minister John Malecela pleaded with MP’s to start healing the wounds “Let us take confidence building measures … we have already caused a lot of wounds; let’s start dressing them now”.

MP’s eventually agreed to restore the shilling and passed the budget estimates.

For some time before this, the press in Dar es Salaam had been reporting a succession of visits by President Mwinyi, President Amour and several other leaders to Mwalimu Nyerere’s Butiama retirement home for urgent discussions on Union matters. And on August 17th readers of the Daily News were greeted with a huge front page headline – ‘NATION WARNED. NYERERE IN DEFENCE OF TANZANIA’.

The retired President addressed first the members of Parliament and then a press conference. He said that the nation was bound to disintegrate if those in authority continued to violate the Constitution. Lawlessness would throw the nation into anarchy.

Mwalimu Nyerere said that he had been disturbed by the way the Government had handled the controversial Zanzibar entry into the OIC. The move was an outright violation of the Union Constitution and he was pleased that Zanzibar had now decided to withdraw.

“What is more puzzling” he said “is the way the Government was behaving before and after Zanzibar’s entry. The news was reported for the first time by the BBC and was later picked up by the local press. But the Government was reluctant to admit that Zanzibar had joined until the press produced more information”. Mwalimu said that such a violation of the Constitution was a difficult subject to talk about. He said however that he found it even more difficult to keep quiet.

“To all Cabinet Ministers, some of whom have now concentrated their efforts on the demolition of pork shops, I have a question. What has happened these days? Do you these days take an oath to protect pork shops? In our day we took an oath to defend the Constitution” he went on. The CCM National Executive Committee and the Central Committee, through shelving important national issues …. had contributed to Zanzibar’s unconstitutional entry into the OIC. “If there is a lack of consensus on a principle, some (people) resign. Oh Yes! And they openly explain why they’ve done so”.

Mwalimu went on to say that the OIC controversy had fanned the sentiments of those demanding a different structure for the Union. Some were calling for three governments (Union, Mainland and Zanzibar) while others demanded one central Union government only.

He made it clear that he was in favour of the present two-government system (the Union and Zanzibar governments). He said that matters of national interest should not be regarded as ‘sensitive’ and should not be handled secretly. such practices would be regarded as ‘cunning tactics I which were contrary to good governance.

This was the first time that Mwalimu Nyerere had openly criticised the government which succeeded his. Some commentators linked the Mwinyi government’s mixed signals when the OIC controversy first emerged to the fact that President Mwinyi is himself from Zanzibar and probably had divided loyalties.

Former Union Prime Minister Joseph Warioba has been among the MP’s who have consistently pressed the government to come out clearly on the OIC issue. In the tense Parliamentary debate in August he asked “Was the constitution violated or not?”

At this stage, and before replying, Minister of Legal and constitutional Affairs Samuel Sitta took a glass of water. The House burst into laughter. “The constitution was violated” he admitted at last. But he added that, although Tanzania was one united sovereign state it had two constitutions one for Zanzibar and one for the Union. This was an anomaly. There was no constitutional court to resolve issues between these constitutions. He pleaded with legislators to leave the arc issue alone before it caused further damage to the Union.

Professor Othman, in his London address, threw some new light on the earliest stages of the Union. He said that the then Zanzibar President (Karume) wanted to have a total union with one government – it was Nyerere who had insisted that Zanzibar’s identity should be preserved. Zanzibari’s initially showed great enthusiasm for the Union but this was primarily because they wanted to be rescued from their own (very tough) revolutionary regime at the time.

The Professor was in favour of continuation of the Union which had brought stability and peace; a three-part Federation would mean its dismemberment. He recommended that the following measures should be taken to avoid the withering away of the Union:
– a reduction in the number of items (23) in the constitution which are now Union matters;
– the drafting of new laws by the two Attorney-Generals working together;
– Zanzibar to be free to enter into international contracts on non-Union matters and to have representatives in Tanzanian embassies abroad.

A significant change in recent constitutional discussions is that the word ‘Tanganyika,’ long since out of use in the United Republic, was now being freely employed.

An editorial in the Business Times on August 20,1993 had this to say: ‘Every dark cloud has its silver lining …. despite Nyerere’s admirable attempts to save the present structure (of the Union) it is obvious that two governments for Tanganyika and Zanzibar will never work satisfactorily. Nyerere is probably right that a Federal three-government structure will lead to the collapse of the United Republic and that a single central government is a nonstarter … in the circumstances, the only realistic and lasting solution is to have two separate and sovereign states working in close collaboration. The end of the Union would not be a progressive step but it would also not be the disaster it is made out to be by some people …. economic necessity and geography, apart from a shared history, culture and defence needs, would all dictate close cooperation between the two countries’.

As this Bulletin goes to press the constitutional situation remained fluid. The Government announced that a report on the state of the Union would be made in Dodoma in October 1993. At a full CCM Party meeting agreement was reached on a consultation exercise in which people would be able to express their views on the future of the Union and the possibility of the creation of a Tanganyika Government within it. The 57 MP’s who had earlier demanded the setting up of such a government revised their motion in favour of a referendum on the matter for mainlanders.

In an effort to remove a long-standing bone of contention the Zanzibar Government agreed to allow mainlanders to visit Zanzibar without passports. The opposition Civic United Front promptly objected. Others complained about ‘the selling of Zanzibar to Tanganyika’ and ‘the auctioning of its statehood’.

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