Answering a question about the extent to which democracy was now working in Tanzania in a recent interview House Speaker Pius Msekwa said that yes it was working and the foundations had been laid for its maintenance and durability. He added: “I actually have heard many people commenting that so far multi-partyism is working properly only inside Parliament; but it is not doing so well in the country as a whole. I am personally inclined to concur with these views”.
The warring groups within the main opposition NCCR-Mageuzi Party – the NCCR-Mrema faction (led by the Chairman of the party, Augustine Mrema) and the NCCR-Marando faction (led by the party’s Secretary General Mabere Marando) seem still to be far apart and this is not helping their cause at all.
Firstly, the High Court continues to prohibit the two factions from holding meetings of the old NCCR National Executive and Central Committees until a suit disputing the chairmanship of Mrema filed against him by Marando is disposed by the court.
Secondly, as the NCCR party suffers more casualties from petitions presented to the High Court against the election of its MP’s, it is finding it impossible to register in the subsequent by-elections because the faction leaders cannot agree to sign the necessary election registration documents.
The most recently dislodged NCCR MP has been the very fiery and prominent MP for Ubungo, Dar es Salaam Dr. Masumbuko Lamwai.
NCCR-Mrema faction Secretary General Mr Prince Bagenda was successful in his petition to the High Court to remove the CCM MP for Muleba South (Kagera Region) because of malpractice during the last elections, He assumed that he would have a good chance in the forthcoming by-election. But when he went to submit his nomination papers, the Returning Officer (and later, on appeal, the Vice-chairman of the Electoral Commission) rejected them because of irregularities – they did not contain the signature of the original NCCR Secretary General Mabere Marando, who still officially holds that post, although now leading the other faction of the party. Marando’s reaction to these events was, according to the Daily News, to accuse Bagenda of political ineptitude. Marando said that he would have been prepared to sign the nomination papers but had not been asked. The results of the by-election, where there was a poor turnout (announced on November 11) were:
Wilson Masilingi (the CCM MP who had been removed) 25,703
Ernest Mashobe (Civic United Front – CUF) 6,121
Gratian Mukoba (United Democratic Party – UDP) 2,957
A similar situation arose in the Arusha seat where the son of Mwalimu Nyerere, NCCR MP Makongoro Nyerere, whose success in the general elections had come as a surprise to many observers, lost his seat in October. He had originally survived a petition against his election but Appeal Court Justice Lameck Mfalila overuled this and spoke about the ‘massive foul play’ by the Returning Officer who was said to have excluded votes from seven polling stations. There had also been 5,246 ‘ghost’ voters and over 50 ballot boxes which had not been sealed. Mr Makongoro said he would now pursue further studies abroad. He was withdrawing (after being nominated for the by-election) in the interests of party unity. The by-election was scheduled for December 28. The Marando faction nominated a Mr Jeremiah Mpinga to replace him.
Another MP unseated earlier, the NCCR MP for Bunda (Musoma) Mr Stephen Wassira, has been refused permission by the Appeal Court to take part in the forthcoming by-election because of his alleged involvement in corrupt practices at the 1995 elections.
Even President Mkapa has expressed disappointment at the internal conflict in the NCCR. Democracy was enhanced by the presence of a strong opposition he said.
In other election petitions the Kasulu East NCCR candidate failed in his petition to prove 17 charges of corruption and violation of electoral procedures against the CCM MP for the constituency. In the Bukoba Rural election petition case, witness number 28, a CHADEMA party election agent, caused laughter in the court when he admitted that he had failed to attend a training session because he had heard that the truck bringing election agent’s allowances had arrived in the village. “Gari la kugawa pesa ilipofika, tulikimbilia fedha” he said.
Meanwhile, leader of the small (5 MP’s) UDP party, John Cheyo (described in the ‘East African’ as outspoken and stylish) is benefiting both from the collapse of the NCCR and from his key position as Deputy Leader of the opposition and Shadow Finance Minister – through his alliance with the 27 Zanzibar CUF MP’s who form the majority of the opposition in the Union parliament. He is increasing his national exposure in the media and his popularity by sharp questioning of government ministers. His party has also joined the Liberal International.
He has attacked what he described as the huge sums of money being spent by national leaders on travel expenses. He said that Mwalimu Nyerere had spent Shs 1.4 billion in the 18 months up to September 1996 and that President Mkapa had spent Shs 2.2 billion during the same period. Cheyo compared this with the Shs 2.3 billion in the budget for the water sector and Shs 546 million for the energy sector. The government-owned Daily News described his comments as ‘verbal poison’ and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Kingunge Ngombale-Mwiru, warned him against seeking political popularity though unresearched data. He said that only Shs 173 million of Mwalimu’s expenses had been paid by Tanzania. The South Commission, of which Mwalimu is Chairman, had paid Shs 1.3 billion and the Burundi Fund, of which is he the Facilitator, had paid Shs 63 million. Cheyo was particularly voluble on a Bill presented to Parliament in October to increase benefits to retired leaders and the government subsequently withdrew the Bill so as to give more time to consider MP’s comments.