October 18, 1985. Arrive in Dar es Salaam.
October 19. Election rally in Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam. Music, warm-up speeches and jokes; boys on stilts help to entertain the moderately-sized crowd. Large numbers of uninterested passes-by showing signs of election-fatigue. Finally, presidential candidate for the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Party Mr. Benjamin Mkapa arrives standing atop a Landrover and accompanied by a procession of other vehicles. He looks as though he is hating every moment of the slow procession into the centre of the, by now, much larger crowd. His Vice-Presidential running mate Dr. Omar Ali Juma, the Chief Minister of Zanzibar, clearly a more seasoned campaigner, smiles and enjoys himself. But once he gets hold of the microphone Mr. Mkapa looks happier. He speaks clearly and forcibly. He points out that CCM has provided peace and stability since independence and it could be risky to throw it all away. He spends a surprisingly long time talking about foreign policy on which, of course, he is the expert, but it can hardly be a subject of priority for the people of this densely-packed suburb.
October 19. Comfortable (US$ 30) hydrofoil journey to Zanzibar. Coloured portraits of Dr. Salmin Amour, the CCM leader, everywhere. A helpful porter at the dockside explains that you can get Dr. Amour’s pictures free but you have to pay for pictures of Mr Seif Shariff Hamad, the Vice-Chairman and Zanzibar leader of the Civic United Front (CUF)! This surprising information turns out later to have some truth in it. We (myself and a journalist from the ‘Economist’) stop on the roadside and attend a small, quiet but highly organised and very good-natured meeting of supporters of the CUF. Lively speeches and great emphasis on the historic nature of the decision voters will be taking in two days time.
Arrival at the hotel and the lights go out – but only for one hour under a power-sharing scheme with other parts of the town. By election day however, the nightly power cuts no longer seem to be necessary!.
October 20. A day-long briefing for the 130 international observers. They are told that they are there to observe and not to intervene but they should use their common sense when problems come up. They did not then realise how many problems they were going to face. Lots of questions are addressed to the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (whose Chairman and Deputy Chairman are present) about the earlier voter registration process which had been boycotted for a time by the CUF opposition. How many objections had there been? Originally about 1,000 but now only 600 remained. How much did it cost to raise an objection? A deposit of Shs 5,000. Had there been intimidation? Yes, in three cases in Pemba and also in Zanzibar town. The ZEC had sorted them out and sacked one registration clerk. Was it true that 3,000 CUF supporters had been taken off the register and 20,000 had not been allowed to register? No, but the law did specify that to register in Unguja, you had to have been resident for five years and some Pembans therefore did not qualify to vote.
The average size of a constituency was 7,019 votes. Voters had to place their ballots in three boxes – for the President, the MP and the Ward Councillor.
Next off to the Ministry of Information to collect the rmagicl press card. With this document priority of entry was guaranteed to every rally, every press conference, every event.
In the evening, in a huge aircraft hanger-like building, the elders of Zanzibar, women on the left, men on the right, are invited to hear Union presidential candidate Professor Ibrahim Lipumba (CUF) who had been chosen to contest the election at the last minute when the CUF failed to agree with Union opposition leader Augustine Mrema (NCCR-Mageuzi party) on a joint candidature. Lipumba speaks eloquently and repeatedly about honesty and probity and justice in government. “We want leaders” he said “not rulers”. In the evening I meet a pilot and copilot of an 8-seater plane hired apparently by CCM from Kuwait. It is part of what is clearly a no-expenses-spared CCM election campaign.
October 21. A carnival atmosphere. I don’t think anything as exciting as this has happened in Zanzibar for some time. Two big final political rallies.
In the morning it is the CUF. At all the meetings I later attend the respect and tolerance so typical of Tanzania is there to be seen. What happens is that the opposing party fills a truck with supporters and party banners and drives past the opposition meeting, makes a lot of noise, receives some banter in return and then, after two or three passages, withdraws and politely leaves the other party to continue its meeting in peace. Bright and colourful head scarves of the women sitting on the ground in the middle of this CUF gathering make a beautiful picture on this hot sunny day. It is very much like a prayer meeting – so disciplined and orderly and the rapt attention paid to all that is said. Even the bicycle park is carefully demarcated and supervised. Three white doves, clearly well trained, are released and wheel over the huge assembly to the delight of everyone. And the CUF leader, Seif Shariff Hamad, wearing a light beige safari suit and a distinctive beard both looks and behaves as if he is on an evangelical crusade. He gives a powerful speech in the mellifluous pure tones of Zanzibar Kiswahili. Amongst other things he says “Under the British this island was run efficiently. We aim to do the same”.
In the afternoon a much larger gathering. A higher calibre pop band to warm things up is followed, to the great excitement of the crowd, not be doves, but by the release from a low-flying aircraft, of thousands of last-minute leaflets exhortating people to ‘Vote CCM’. Many speeches culminating in an impressive performance by the CCM Zanzibar presidential candidate Dr. Salmin Amour who reiterates the message about peace, progress and stability and how his party rescued Zanzibar from its original oppressors. The presidential candidate then drives away in his luxurious Mercedes saloon followed by a truck load of heavily armed police. Part of the crowd, which had stood back from the meeting and seemed apathetic or tired of listening to speeches, now shows its political allegiance; they warmly and loudly applaud him on his slow passage home. Some tell me that they are “not going to hand the Zanzibar back to the Arabs” – something about which there appears to be widespread fear.
The ideological differences between CCM and CUF do not seem to be great although CUF believes that injustice was done in the past to landowners and should be redressed. CUF would be likely to foster closer relations with and more investment from Oman and the Arab world and, although accepting the need for a continuation of the Tanzanian Union (all major parties agree on this) would want more autonomy for Zanzibar than CCM is likely to favour.
October 22. Election day. It is reminiscent of the scenes at the South African election last year. But this time it is not the hot sun which causes the suffering. This time it is torrential rain. A moving scene long to be remembered – as the clouds open nobody moves from his/her place in the long lines waiting to vote. In a massive turnout (over 95%) almost everybody is soaked and soaked again as the rain goes on and on. But the voters remain resilient and doggedly determined to vote. Let there be no doubt about the enthusiasm for multiparty elections in Zanzibar.
But then things start to go wrong. The educational level of many polling clerks is such that, although they have only 300 names on their voters lists it sometimes takes almost a quarter of an hour for the clerk to find the name of one voter on his or her list. 11 am…..1pm…. 3pm ….. and at many polling stations voting has not yet started.
Some people are still trying to vote in the pitch dark at midnight. Tension rises. At one polling station in a large secondary school, although voting is long since over, at 10.30 pm the counting has not yet started because there are no lights. Eventually CUF provides a generator and all the lights come on. But the counting does not start. The CCM representative, who is not joking, says that counting cannot begin under CUF lights! Entreaties to the effect that light is light whoever provides it, are met with a firm no. Eventually at about midnight a collection of official hurricane lamps arrives. But mutual suspicion remains. We are all called in – observers and pressmen alike – to calm the atmosphere but a compromise is worked out under which all the lamps will be placed in one room and each collection of ballot boxes will be counted separately and not simultaneously as originally planned. Hence the beginning of the long delays in publishing results.
Counting goes on and on. Polling clerks are assiduous in opening the boxes and showing everyone present how every single vote has been cast. Long arguments about where exactly the tick has been placed on the ballot paper. A lot of people sleep at the polling stations. Observers on duty until the early hours.
October 23. Counting of votes continues all day.
October 24. The CUF issues a statement saying that the CCM is rigging the elections and lists 14 irregularities. They call for a total recount in the presidential election and the right to inspect closely the electoral register. Outside the CUF headquarters two units of the armed Field Force arrive suddenly and disperse the crowd with some vigour. The few Asian shopkeepers still open, close and bar the doors of their shops inside 15 seconds!
We talk to CUF Secretary-General Shabaan Mloo who elaborates on the extent of what he claims to be the rigging. He says that the army and the police had their own polling stations; how could they have voted, as he claimed they had done, 100% for CCM?
Later, at one polling station, it takes 45 minutes of argument to decide whether CCM won 44 or 45 votes in a ballot box. The CCM polling supervisor eventually breaks the deadlock by agreeing to accept the figure 44 ‘provisionally’ pending the final tally!
From Dar es Salaam the Daily News reports that Professor Lipumba (CUF Union presidential candidate), who had been expected to mobilise a substantial Muslim vote in the mainland elections, is facing a civil suit in the High Court filed by a resident who claims that the Professor has committed adultery with his wife.
Here in Zanzibar, to considerable surprise, if not disbelief as so few results have been issued, it is reported that there has been an announcement stating that Dr. Salmin Amour will be sworn in as President in two days time! I had planned to return to the mainland today assuming that the Zanzibar election would be over but decide to stay on. Most of the rest of the media do likewise foreseeing further drama.
October 25. A clearly agitated CCM issues a statement saying that the elections have not been free and fair and that fresh elections should be held in six months time. Many people had not voted; there had been harassment and intimidation by CUF supporters; there were differences between the election results declared at polling stations and those being issued by the ZEC. The Finnish UN diplomat Kari Karanko and his few remaining observers looking harassed as they also find serious discrepancies at two closely fought polling stations.
We go and talk to CCM Deputy Secretary-General Ali Ameir Mohamed who explains that it was not an easy decision to reject the election results but there had been so many discrepancies. The Electoral Commission had clearly been incapable. The observers had exceeded their mandate and had to be very careful when working in a third world environment as they could trigger the sentiments of the people. Asked whether, as it seems that the election is going to be almost a dead heat, it would not be wise to set up a government of national unity as proposed by CUF, The Deputy Secretary General tells us that this is not South Africa – where the arrangement is only transitional after all – there are all kinds of historical, ideological and political reasons why it would not be feasible in Zanzibar. Most of the CUF leaders were in earlier Union and Zanzibar governments. We should read the party manifestos and see how much they differed. CUF had been promising heaven.
Still no official declaration of results. I go to the ticket office to postpone my departure yet again. In the absence of truth, rumours flourish. One rumour says that Dr. Amour has been to see President Mwinyi and told him that CCM is in danger of losing the election. President Mwinyi is said to have replied that this is democracy and the result must be accepted. Dr. Amour is then said to have stated that he is not prepared to do this and will deal with the matter in his own way. But it is only a rumour!
In the evening, Dar es Salaam TV announces that CUF has won. People are not sure whether to believe it or not. Julius Nyerere, speaking at a rally in Support of Benjamin Mkapa in Morogoro, is reported on the radio to have appealed to the two leading parties to accept the result whatever it is. Later, when he hears the result, he suggests that, in view of the closeness of the result a government of national unity would be the best solution.
October 26. The English language newspaper ‘The Express’ and the Swahili newspaper ‘Majira’ announce prominently on their front pages that Seif Shariff Hamad has been elected as President of Zanzibar by 164,548 votes to 155,787 for CCM. Other papers print the same news with a question mark. Augustine Mrema congratulates Hamad on his victory. In Zanzibar tension rises as everyone waits for the Zanzibar Electoral Commission to finally issue the official results. People standing around radios all over the town. Most shops firmly closed.
A long private meeting of the leadership of the ZEC. A twice postponed press conference finally starts in a very small, stiflingly hot room at the ZEC at 2.30pm. If a pin were to drop you would hear it.
The result is announced. CCM has won by a majority of 0.4% No questions allowed. There is no appeal against the decision. The ZEC Chairman disappears rapidly. One observer is overheard to say that this is a disaster.
The media pack besiege the CCM’s Ameir Mohamed. Does he still feel that the elections were not free and fair? With face beaming he replies that he is very happy with the results and on the other point he will have to speak to his colleagues. He fights his way to his car.
Within minutes jubilant CCM supporters are out on the streets noisily celebrating. Cars with horns blowing; CCM flags everywhere. CUF supporters not easy to find and very subdued.
The entire media pack jumps into anything with four wheels and sets off at high speed for what turns out to be a very modest single story house in Mtoni – the home of Seif Shariff Hamad in the outer suburbs. He is expecting us. He brings chairs into the garden and in a cool and relaxed tone states that he finds the results totally unacceptable. It is simple, he says, more people have voted than there are on the electoral register. His party will not work with what he describes as ‘this illegal government’ in any way and will boycott the Union elections on Sunday. This latter decision is subsequently overruled by the CUF Executive Committee. Asked what will happen next he says that CUF members are well disciplined and there will be no violence. The new president will be very oppressive. Hamad will continue to inform international public opinion about what has happened.
While he is speaking, a Landrover full of armed police arrives, Have they come to arrest him? No, they say. They are here to give him extra security. He tells them that he doesn’t need it. They look rather uncomfortable midst so many foreign TV cameramen and stay outside, beyond the gate.
The remaining observers continue checking and rechecking results. It seems that they are in a dilemma. Some observers want to publish their figures. Others fear that it might cause disturbances. The observers appeal to all parties to keep the peace.
President Mwinyi is reported on the radio to have sent his congratulations to President Amour on his victory and to Mr Hamad for participating and for the results he has achieved. I postpone my departure for the mainland yet again but am becoming worried that I may miss what is, after all, the main event on the mainland. CCM celebrations continue. October 27. Nineteen hours after the declaration of the results Dr. Salmin Amour is sworn in at a colourful and well organised ceremony midst thousands of excited CCM supporters at the Amaan National Stadium. A 21-gun salute. Western diplomats conspicuous by their absence but the locally resident consuls of India, Mozambique, China and Oman can be seen in the grandstand as can the Kenya High Commissioner.