DISMISSAL OF MREMA TRANSFORMS POLITICAL SCENE

Who will be the next President of Tanzania? This is the question exciting the country at present. And the short answer is that nobody has the least idea at this stage. But the picture has been transformed following the dramatic entry of former Deputy Prime Minister Augustine Mrema and now Acting Chairman of the NCCR-Mageuzi opposition party into the fray. Tanzania’s first multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections will take place on October 29 1995. Voter registration will be from August 6 to September 4 and nominations of candidates must be completed before August 22. The campaign will begin officially on August 29.

CCM LOOKS FOR A WINNER
Potential candidates for the presidency have started campaigning already. But, with the new threat from a potentially strong opposition candidate (see below) the monolithic Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which has ruled Tanzania for the last 25 years, is faced with a formidable problem in finding a candidate who is not tainted with the corruption acknowledged to be widespread in Tanzanian society today. A growing number of CCM members have let it be known or are likely to let it be known shortly that they wish to be in the running for the top job – the Presidency – as President Mwinyi, who will shortly complete his second term of office, has to step down under the Constitution. The CCM is no longer the united group it once was as various factions look over the possible field of candidates and decide where to lend their support. Political analysts are trying hard to identify the eventual winner of the much prized CCM candidacy because the odds still are on the CCM candidate winning the election.

The following are believed to be the leading contenders for the presidency:

MARK BOMANI, former Attorney-General and presently Chairman of the Broadcasting Commission.

NJELU KASAKA MP, Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Development, the first person to announce that he will stand for president; he was not well known until last year when he led the ‘Group of 55’ MP’s pressing for a separate government for Tanganyika.

EDWARD LOWASSA, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

JOHN MALECELA, former Prime Minister and still Vice-Chairman of the CCM but greatly weakened by Mwalimu Nyerere’s clear disapproval.

SIMON MBILINYI, Managing Director, National Development Corporation.

REGINALD MENGI, prominent businessman.

BENJAMIM MKAPA, Minister of Science and Technology.

PIUS MSEKWA, Speaker of the House of Assembly, the second person to declare his candidacy and regarded as a strong contender.

CLEOPA MSUYA, Prime Minister.

FRANCIS NYALALI, Chief Justice of Tanzania.

SALIM AHMED SALIM, Secretary General of the OAU, has stated that he will not be standing but he might change his mind or at least stand for the Zanzibar presidency.

TUNTEMEKE SANGA, MP for Makete

Little has been said so far on the issues to be debated during the election but Mr Msekwa has indicated support for a separate Tanganyika government and a return to the leadership code of the Arusha Declaration; both he and Mr Kasaka have emphasised good uncorrupt government.

THE DISMISSAL OF MREMA
The nation was stunned and the CCM severely shaken on February 24 when they were told that President Mwinyi had dismissed Labour and Youth Development Minister and former Home Affairs Minister Augustine Mrema for indiscipline.

The event which triggered off the dispute between Mr Mrema and the President was a debate in the National Assembly in Dodoma following the publication of a Parliamentary Committee Report into the affairs of a prominent non-citizen businessman and owner of several farms, Mr V G Chavda – a case which has been hitting the headlines in the press for many months. The Committee recommended the arrest and prosecution of Mr Chavda over a multi-million shilling foreign exchange scandal. ‘The Committee alleged that Mr Chavda had misused Shs 916 million in debt conversion funds lent to him by the government, to develop four sisal estates he owned. Some ministers felt that he was innocent but on February 11 the government declared him a prohibited immigrant. Three days later the High Court restrained the government from deporting him.

Mr Mrema used the occasion to castigate the government. His conscience would haunt him, he said it he went along with the government line on Chavda. President Mwinyi therefore sacked him for failing to observe the rule of collective government responsibility.

Shortly after, Mr Mrema announced that, as he was being ‘harassed’ by the ruling party (the CCM) , he was resigning from it and had decided to join the opposition National Convention for Constitution and Reform – Mageuzi (Change) NCCR-Mageuzi whose Chairman Mr Mabere Marando promptly resigned to make way for him.

VAST CROWDS
Then began a triumphal procession. In Dodoma Mr Mrema was carried shoulder high by excited crowds and some 3,000 people signed up for the NCCR-Mageuzi. When he reached his home town, Moshi, police had to use tear gas to control the crowds and shops closed as thousands greeted him all the way from Kilimanjaro airport to the town.

In Dar es Salaam he addressed what was described as one of the biggest meetings ever held in the city. At the NCCR party headquarters officials were selling membership cards until late in the night making nearby roads impassable. It is assumed that he will soon declare his bid for the presidency and there are indications that several other opposition parties might support him.

STINKING OF CORRUPTION
Mwalimu Nyerere addressed the Dar es Salaam Press Club at the height of the Mrema drama. He reiterated at length his views on the sacredness of the Constitution and the vital importance of preservation of the Union.

He then turned to the corruption issue. “Tanzania stinks of corruption” he said and reminded his listeners that, when he was President, people charged with corruption were not only imprisoned for at least two years but also flogged. “Twelve strokes before the sentence and 12 stokes at the end so that they could show their wives!” (Laughter). “The State House is a holy place (Applause). I was not elected by the people of Tanzania to turn it into a den of racketeers” (Wild Applause). “This year’s elections will be ruled by money. Previously, candidates were asked where and how they got their property. Wealth was not a qualification. This year wealth will be the primary qualification!”

But Mwalimu was careful not to indicate which candidate he supported. It was essential he said first to examine the issues facing the electorate.

AUGUSTINE LYATONGA MREMA
The name Mrema evokes strong feelings. He is not considered to be an intellectual but he has charisma; he is a hero to the masses, and to the underprivileged, but is regarded with some distrust by many of the thinking classes because of his unpredictable behaviour and the way he sometimes tends to take action which might be considered to be stretching the law. He is very hard working and diligent in his search for injustice. But, having detected it, he tends to make very rapid judgements often without giving full thought to the probable consequences.

His reactions during the Dodoma drama are interesting. First, he is reported to have said that he was not going to quit the CCM party. Two days later he left it. Then he said he was leaving but still loved the party very much. Later he was attacking it with all barrels blazing; the party was guilty of ‘corruption, negligence and theft.’ He also said to have declared that he was not going to join another political party. Then he joined NCCR-Mageuzi.

In cabinet he often irritated fellow ministers by interfering in their portfolios.

His four-year crusade against corruption however has made him immensely popular. But the only people he managed to catch for corrupt practices seem to have been lower level managers and employees.

Mr Mrema is popular amongst women as he has declared war against wife beaters and husbands who neglect their families. In Moshi it was said that marriages were in danger as women flocked to join NCCR-Mageuzi while the men stayed with CCM.

He has frequently caused panic in business circles as he demands action within so many days on improving pay and conditions of workers. He was initially on the side of the petty traders, a large number of whom are operating in Dar es Salaam. On December 18 last year Mr Mrema assured a group of them in Kariakoo that they would not be forced out of the city centre as long as they obeyed the law. On February 16 however, the government drove them away from the market area and there was a riot which had to be quelled by the police.

1 Comment »

  1. It’s not just a rapper’s arrest that should raise alarms about authoritarianism in Tanzania – worldnews said,

    March 29, 2017 at 11:23 am

    […] is common in Tanzania’s history. Tanzania’s second president, Ali H. Mwinyi, infamously fired his deputy prime minister, Augustine Mrema, on the eve of the country’s first multiparty elections in 1995, because of a […]

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