Following a serious rift with Tanzania’s only significant opposition party, the National Convention for Construction and Reform (NCCR-Mageuzi), many political observers believe that, unless there can be a reconciliation or the emergence of some new leader, the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, even after 36 years in power (including the period of its predecessor TANU) is destined to come out on top again in the next general election in the year 2000. But not necessarily. Three years is a long time in politics!
TA has been told that the ‘intellectual wing’ of the NCCR led by the lawyer who founded the party, Mr Mabere Marando, became convinced some time ago that the chairman of the party, the charismatic and energetic former Deputy Prime Minister, Augustine Mrema, was not the right person to represent the party in the next presidential elections. His dominating personality, unpredictability and relative lack of education were held against him. Marando (who had been the founder of the party and its first chairman) had given way to Mrema and agreed to him taking over the chairmanship of the party in 1995 and it was Mrema who had rejuvenated the party and presented a serious challenge to the CCM in the last elections. During the last year Marando and his supporters are believed to have tried to persuade Mrema to resign or to undertake further studies overseas but Mrema was said to have refused. Joe Dotto writing in the ‘Business Times’ described Mrema as ‘a hot potato which cannot be spewed out because it is sweet nor swallowed because it is hot!’ The Marando wing of the party are reported to have lobbied other prominent former CCM leaders in the hope that they might join CCM and offer a challenge to Mrema but without success.
THE TANGA MEETING
Thus, when the NCCR party gathered for a week of meetings in Tanga on May 8, tensions were high and the Mabere wing of the party, which includes almost all its 19 MP’s, decided to try and remove Mrema (who has the support of the mass of members of the party and almost all regional chairmen), from the chairmanship of the party. The various meetings which took place during the week in Tanga were acrimonious and punctuated by physical confrontation, name calling and even tears. When the lights went out temporarily during the meeting, there was some panic and a few people were injured as they tried to escape from the room.
Party Chairman Mrema delivered a long speech accusing Marando of accepting a bribe from the CCM to get rid of him. Marando, in reply, accused Mrema of embezzlement of party funds, failure to follow party guidelines and leading the party ‘like a dancing troupe’. The main conflict at the meeting was between the 30-member Central Committee which largely supported Marando, and wanted to remove Mrema from office and the much larger Executive Committee which supported Mrema.
The Marando faction then attempted to gain ascendancy by bringing in the law. Mrema was relying on his wide popularity. Marando appealed to the High Court to bar Mrema from acting as chairman and from access to the party building and from party funds. He suggested that Mrema should form his own party. But on May 16 the High Court dismissed Marando’s application because it had been improperly drawn. The constitution of the party apparently makes it almost impossible to remove leaders.
Meanwhile, Mrema’s supporters had seized the party HQ at Manzese in Dar es Salaam and made sure that the Marando faction were kept out. Marando later found other quarters in Gerezani, Dar es Salaam and took the original NCCR Secretariat staff with him. Mrema dismissed Marando and chose Mr Prince Bagenda, as the new party Secretary General and also appointed a new list of party officials and a new secretariat. Bagenda was the leader of a group of the NCCR which had broken away, three years ago, from Marando’s original NCCR before Mrema joined. With the arrival of Mrema as chairman, Bagenda rejoined the party but was not given a prominent position.
On May 28 and 21 Registrar of Political Parties George Liundi tried hard, during lengthy meetings, to bring the two factions together but failed. He said that he could not deregister a party which had internal conflicts but the law said he could do so if a party was split. The Mrema faction’s new Executive Director, Dr Ndembwela Ngunangwa has told TA about the efforts of Bishop Elinaza Sendoro of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania to mediate between the two faction leaders but he too failed.
REACTION AROUND THE COUNTRY
NCCR members are bitterly disappointed by the behaviour of their leaders whom many accuse of being interested in power and money rather than the good of the country; “If Mrema can’t manage his own party, how can he run the country?” is a common refrain.
But although Mrema’s popularity with the masses has been dented it has not disappeared; people continue to admire him for his vigorous attacks on corruption when he was Minister of Home Affairs in a previous government. An increasing number of his more politically aware supporters are, however, expressing the view that he is not the best person to face CCM in the presidential elections in the year 2000. The Daily News (July 29) quoted Mrema as saying, at one of the many rallies he has been addressing since the party split, that he was ready to go to jail in a case in which he is accused of uttering false documents implicating senior government and CCM officials of bribery; “In Africa” he said “prison graduates sometimes become presidents”. Referring to the Marando faction: “These people want to get rid of me. They are not obedient to me – their top boss. How can I continue working with them? I want people who are ready to obey my orders in the Central Committee…. I am the very final NCCR-Mageuzi commander” he said at one meeting, amid laughter from the audience. On July 21 Mrema surprised a large rally of his supporters in his Temeke constituency by saying that he was not the automatic choice of the party for the next presidential election; if the party found someone more suitable he would travel all over the country in support of that person.
Many observers fear that what has happened has severely damaged democracy in Tanzania as the NCCR is the only viable opposition at present. But Professor Mwesiga Baregu of the University of Dar es Salaam, writing in the Dar es Salaam Guardian (July 1) said that he would have been surprised if such conflicts as those seen in the NCCR had not occurred. ‘In a period of transition towards true democracy, conflict within a political party is not the source of death’ he wrote ‘but the source of growth, transformation and renewal’. UDP chairman and deputy leader of the opposition in Parliament, John Cheyo, who is well-known for his pragmatic approach, advised NCCR leaders to take one month of leave ‘to cool off’.
The Registrar of Political Parties has withheld a $101,269 government subsidy to the NCCR party pending clarification of the situation.
A further indication of the damage the party has done to itself came when it had to select a candidate to fight a by-election in Makete. The Election Registrar refused to issue two sets of nomination papers to one party and so, on August 25, the CCM candidate Dr Harry Kitine, was declared elected as the MP unopposed!
Political observers are looking around to see if anyone else might be eligible to lead Tanzania into the new millennium apart from President Mkapa, who is now the undoubted favourite. One person who was believed to have considered the possibility of taking part in the last presidential election and who is taking an increasingly prominent public role is Mr Reginald Mengi – Tanzania’s self-made wealthy businessman and media mogul. He owns English and Swahili newspapers and the ITV station. These outlets have been giving increasing amounts of space to his activities in recent weeks, in particular to his new role as Chairman of the National Environment Management Council, but he continues to say that he is not interested in entering the political arena.
The NCCR is not the only opposition party having difficulties. The Rev. Christopher Mtikila, at one time a very popular opposition leader, whose Democratic Party the government refuses to recognise, saw his opportunity on March 31. He suddenly joined the CHADEMA party and got himself selected as its candidate in a by-election at Ludewa (following the death of Horace Kolimba – TA No 57). Ludewa is Mtikila’s own area and he appeared to have a good chance of winning. But the result of the May 25 by-election was as follows:
Prof. Chrispin Haule Che Mponda CCM 20,111
Rev. Christopher Mtikila CHADEMA 8,386
Barnabas Kidulile NCCR 1,271
According to the Dar es Salaam Guardian, Mtikila later insulted CHADEMA leaders and he has since been expelled from the party. Meanwhile the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) expelled seven of its leaders on April 4 because the group wished to recognise Dr Salmin Amour as President of Zanzibar. And the UDP party lost its Vice-Chairman, Ambassador Christopher Ngaiza following disagreements between him and party Chairman John Cheyo.
On August 25 there was, at last, some good news for the opposition. The High Court nullified the 1995 parliamentary election result for the Muleba constituency in Karagwe Region and CCM MP Wilson Masinlingi lost his seat. The person opposing him at that time was Mr Prince Bagenda who has been in the forefront of the troubles in the NCCR party (see above). The by-election in this constituency is likely to be hard fought if the NCCR can agree on its candidate.