A PERSONAL ELECTION DIARY – MAINLAND

THE MAINLAND ELECTIONS

I catch the hydrofoil to Dar es Salaam in the afternoon. Arrive in time to attend the penultimate rally of down-to-earth Union presidential candidate John Cheyo (UDP). His final rally next day is to be on his home ground in Shinyanga. It is a very small gathering lost in the vast open spaces of Jangwani. He is much the most entertaining of the presidential candidates – some very good jokes, clear enunciation and pronounced Thatcherite views. He wants to clear away restrictions on land ownership, actively encourage investment, close down cooperative unions. Tanzanians must be allowed to make money he says. But few seem to take him seriously.

October 28. NCCR-Mageuzi supporters with flags on every street corner in Dar es Salaam. A festive air. Can NCCR presidential candidate Augustine Mrema surprise everyone by beating the powerful CCM? To the ordinary visitor it seems obvious that he will. Young and excited NCCR supporters are everywhere. In the afternoon a massive and well organised NCCR rally with fiery speeches from several speakers – a particularly fiery one from the lawyer Dr. Mazumbuko Lamwai. “Seif Shariff is the true president of Zanzibar” he shouts. Loud applause. Perhaps the loudest applause of the whole afternoon.

Nine prisoners, pardoned on October 20 by President Mwinyi, after having been given life sentences in December 1985 for plotting to overthrow the government and having completed 13 years in jail, are paraded before the crowd.

The speeches culminate in a bitter attack by Mrema on Julius Nyerere which is received less enthusiastically. “He says that we are vagabonds, that we are inexperienced … but I’ve been a Minister for four years!” Mrema says.

At Jangwani at the same time the CCM fills the vast space with what must be the biggest rally of the whole campaign. Benjamin Mkapa speaks yet again about peace and stability and continuity and says that CCM alone has the experienced and capable people to lead the nation.

And at the same time Professor Lipumba closes his campaign with a small rally at Mnazi Moja.

October 29. Mainland election day. In the centre of the city Asian CCM supporters calmly queue and vote without difficulty. But we then tour Ukonga and are besieged at almost every stop by angry people. These are not passive Zanzibaris. And again they assume that we are observers. They expect us to do something. One angry roadside hotelier protests that his premises have been taken over as a polling station by the Police without consultation even though he has already cooked the chicken and rice for his customers! Who is going to compensate him for his loss of business. Eventually he cools down and begins to see the funny side of it.

It is mid-day and voting has hardly started at many polling stations. One cannot but admire the ingenuity of the election staff in converting the most unpromising of premises into functioning polling stations even though often of extreme simplicity. Secrecy is often ensured by a single piece of gunny bag suspended over a small table.

An angry lady complains that she left her breast-feeding baby at home when she came to vote at 6am and still voting hasn’t started.

By the end of the day thousands had found it impossible to vote as their polling stations never opened. Widespread shortages of ballot papers, special ink, rubber stamps. There are accusations that the worst affected constituencies are those in which the opposition has the best chance of winning. A four-hour extension of voting time is announced in the afternoon by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) but even this doesn’t solve the problem for many voters who have given up hope of taking part in the election. Many polling stations still do not open. At Kawe angry people attack a car containing Shs 2.7 million in cash and ballot papers when they find posters supporting CCM in the car.

October 30. After headlines in the morning press like ‘CHAOS AND CONFUSION’, National Electoral Commission Chairman Judge Lewis Makame announces, in a surprisingly nonchalant way, at a much delayed and packed press conference, that the Dar es Salaam election will have to be held again later. Some upcountry polling stations will also remain open tomorrow.

October 31 First results indicate a clear win for the CCM. No celebrations because the results are few and far between. Confident CCM Campaign Director Col Abdulrahman Kinana tells me that there is a widespread but faulty assumption that, when you introduce multi-party elections, the ruling party has to lose. He sees no reason for the Dar elections to be held again. Polling could continue for a day or two longer, he says. He is very critical of the Electoral Commission.

November 1. A few more results confirm CCM’s big victory. Ten opposition parties file a petition with the High Court to nullify the elections.

November 2. Powerful oratory at a loud protest meeting at the Starlight Hotel Hall of all the opposition party leaders – finally together in defeat – to demand new elections and an interim government under the Chief Justice.

November 3. A densely packed gathering at the High Court to hear the result of the appeal of the opposition parties. Justices Luhekelo Kyando, Josephat Mackanja and William Maina reject an opposition request to bar further issuing of election results. A few over-exuberant opposition supporters create a disturbance outside and are taken away by the Police. One of them tells me later that he paid the police Shs 2,000 and they let him go. The others paid what they could afford!

November 13. The High Court dismisses with costs the opposition’s application in a 19-page ruling.

November 16. The leaders of most of the opposition parties declare that they will boycott the Dar es Salaam elections.

November 19. Second election in Dar es Salaam. Half of the registered electors turn up to vote; no problems at polling stations.

November 20-23. Final election results announced exactly one month after the elections began. CCM takes six seats and NCCR one in Dar es Salaam and Benjamin Mkapa has won a great victory for CCM.

CONCLUSION

Although Tanzania’s long-time ruling party the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) won the Presidency and the elections for the Union Parliament in Tanzania convincingly, for the first time in the history of the country, a powerful block of 50 opposition MP’s now sit in Parliament to keep cabinet ministers on their toes. 1f it had not been for the doubts surrounding the conduct and result of the elections in Zanzibar and for the chaos and confusion which occurred there and in Dar es Salaam requiring the latter elections to be cancelled and then held again, this would have been described as another impressive success story on the road to democracy in Africa following the successful elections in South Africa, Namibia, Malawi, Zambia and elsewhere.

As the ‘Business Times’ put it, ‘Tanzanians showed exceptional political maturity even under the very trying circumstances many of them faced. Even the voters who were most frustrated in their desire to vote or most dissatisfied with the result made only a few derogatory remarks and eventually returned to their homes peacefully – a good sign of political tolerance. People did not overreact and kept their cool’.

(I am grateful to many people in Tanzania and in Britain for help in obtaining information on which parts of this diary and the following election articles are based. Particular thanks are due to Joseph Masanilo, Cuthbert Kimambo and Jwani Mwaikusa – David Brewin).

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